The only city-run homeless shelter is set to close next week, which could leave up to 16 people back on the streets.
The shelter at its peak housed 200 homeless people. As of Tuesday, there were 37 people staying at the shelter, according to Andrew Geurkink, a city program analyst. Of those, 16 people have not yet found a place to go and may be homeless when they exit the shelter next Tuesday.
After the Railroad Drive shelter closes, there will not be a city-run triage shelter open until July at the earliest, when the Capitol Park Hotel is set to open downtown with up to 180 beds.
The city opened the Railroad Drive shelter in early December 2017, and it was set to close in June so the owners could use the warehouse for cannabis cultivation, manufacturing and distribution. Mayor Darrell Steinberg raised millions in private funds, mostly from local hospitals and medical systems, to keep it running through April.
Steinberg did not want Railroad Drive to close before a new shelter is open, but said city resources now need to go in to opening new shelters.
“I have fought successfully to keep the Railroad shelter open since last June,” Steinberg siad. “It was scheduled to close June 30 and I said no no no and now we have gained an additional 10 months as a result and more people have been helped and been served. I know the staff and team will do everything possible to make sure the few remaining people who have not been placed will get placed and then we move to a project that gives us even more hope. We have learned some valuable lessons from Railroad. It has been a success. But we are going to learn and grow and make it even better.”
In the nearly 17 months the shelter has been open, 161 people got into permanent housing after leaving the shelter, while 82 went to temporary housing, mostly other shelters, according to city data through April 24.
Railroad Drive was the city’s only large shelter that let people bring their pets, partners and possessions and also did not turn them away for having drugs and alcohol in their systems. Many of those who were served at Railroad were elderly and many had been homeless for years and even decades. Guests also received help getting state identification cards and removing other barriers they encountered in finding permanent housing.
Officials are working to find places for the remaining Railroad residents to go, whether to permanent supportive housing units using vouchers; non-subsidized shared housing; board and care facilities for elderly; and longer-term sheltering programs like Volunteer for America’s Mather shelter that focuses on job readiness, said Emily Halcon, the city’s homeless services coordinator.
The people who do not have housing when it closes will still receive continued case management services, including medical, help finding jobs and housing, Halcon said.