The Homeless

Citing complications, city scraps plan for homeless shelter at Florin light rail station

Sacramento city officials have scrapped a controversial proposal to open a homeless shelter at the Florin light rail parking lot.

Officials are now eyeing a new spot in Councilman Larry Carr’s district, which includes the south Sacramento neighborhoods of Meadowview, Parkway and North Laguna Creek, Carr said.

If the new Sacramento site opens, the city will not open a second large shelter in south Sacramento that would be operating at the same time, Councilman Jay Schenirer said.

“We don’t want an over-concentration of sites in any area of the city,” Councilman Jay Schenirer said. “This other one will be better than Florin because of the challenges with Florin around (Federal Transit Administration) and working with other agencies. At this point, putting that on hold and moving to another one makes a lot of sense.”

Schenirer in January announced a proposal for a 100-bed tent-like shelter on an underutilized corner of the Florin light rail station parking lot, but it still lacks the needed approvals from the Sacramento Regional Transit board and the FTA. Six of the RT board’s 11 members who represent the county or municipalities outside the city have raised concerns about the shelter.

The FTA sent a list of questions about the shelter to the city, as it considered approval, and the city has not yet responded, Schenirer said.

The shelter also received sharp criticism from the residents of South Gate Mobile Estates, the Golf Course Terrace neighborhood, as well as students and staff at Luther Burbank High School, which is kitty-corner from the site.

“I think (the new site) is much further away from any population centers,” Schenirer said.

The new site, where a tent-like shelter would be erected, is paved, not near a playground and not in the middle of a neighborhood, Carr said. Carr said he is unsure if the site can get sewage and plumbing, though, and community outreach still needs to be done.

“We have to dot several Is and cross several Ts,” Carr said.

Luther Burbank High School teacher John Perryman, a leading critic of the Florin site, said he was glad that proposal is off the table for now.

“They do need to be able to enforce the anti-camping ordinance so they need open beds, but the population involved is too high risk to be near the schools,” Perryman said.

Due to the Martin v. City of Boise court decision, police cannot cite homeless people who are camping outside unless police confirm there is an available shelter bed and offer transportation to it. All the shelters in the city are typically full on any given night.

Schenirer talked to 400 to 500 residents and business owners about the site before tabling the idea, he said.

The new south Sacramento shelter could hold between 100 and 200 beds, Mayor Darrell Steinberg said, which would bring the city a step closer to the mayor’s goal of opening 800 new shelter beds.

“We’re going to find the money and get people indoors and help them reclaim their lives,” Steinberg said. “I just want to give you a sense that we are heading toward not a magic number but at least that goal of 800.”

The City Council is set to vote Tuesday to approve city funding for the new south Sacramento shelter, a shelter in the downtown Capitol Park Hotel, and on Caltrans land at X Street and Alhambra, said Emily Halcon, the city’s homeless services coordinator.

The council has already taken a step toward opening a tent-like shelter on a corner of Cal Expo property near the southeast end of Ethan Way. That shelter could open in November, said Councilman Jeff Harris, who’s proposing it.

The Capitol Park Hotel shelter, proposed by Councilman Steve Hansen, could open as early as the summer, and stay open for as long as 18 months, a news release from the mayor’s office said.

Steinberg in December asked all eight council members to find sites for at least 100 shelter beds with services in each of their districts.

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Theresa Clift covers Sacramento City Hall. Before joining The Bee in 2018, she worked as a local government reporter for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, the Daily Press in Virginia and the Wausau Daily Herald in Wisconsin. She grew up in Michigan and graduated from Central Michigan University.