The Homeless

Sacramento approves spending $23M to open homeless shelter at Capitol Park Hotel

The Sacramento City Council on Tuesday approved more than $23 million in funding to open a 180-bed temporary homeless shelter at the Capitol Park Hotel downtown, where more than 90 elderly and disabled people currently live.

The funding, approved unanimously Tuesday, will include roughly $9.7 million in city Measure U reserve funds and about $514,141 in private funds to make repairs and operate the shelter before its July opening. The city will also spend roughly $3 million to relocate the hotel’s residents and roughly $10 million on a loan for Mercy Housing to purchase the property, according to a city staff report.

The city will be reimbursed for the full $13 million by Mercy Housing at the end of the 18 months the shelter is open, before Mercy converts it to permanent supportive housing, city spokesman Tim Swanson said.

Nikki Jones, a homeless activist, said at Tuesday’s meeting homeless shelter location that displaces 90 people is not a good option.

Councilman Steve Hansen, who proposed the shelter site last week, said people will be able to stay at the hotel as long as they need to until finding suitable replacement housing.

“We can organize this in a way that we can give them time so if they have different needs, more significant needs, they can stay longer at Capitol Park Hotel,” Hansen said. “It’s not going to be some one fell swoop where we say, ‘You have to leave’ ... We are both thinking of the people who are unsheltered and the people who will have to move for the creation of this triage facility.”

Christine Weichert, Sacramento Housing and Redevelopment Agency assistant director, said people will have the option to refuse a housing option shown to them if it’s not in an area that meets their needs. Two residents told the Sacramento Bee on Friday they are worried they will be put in places far from their downtown doctors’ offices that are too expensive, and could end up homeless.

“It will take as long as it needs to to make sure they get to where they need to be,” Weichert said. “There’s no time limit. We would like to relocate people as quick as possible to get them resettled but if they need to stay for longer, they can.”

Councilwoman Angelique Ashby said the people who will be relocated will likely find themselves in better housing situations. She asked SHRA officials to create reports that will show where the 90 people ended up.

“I hope you’ll include in there what happened with the placing of the 90 folks and how they’re in a better situation now,” Ashby said. “I have no doubt they will be.”

Mayor Darrell Steinberg, who in December asked all eight council members to find sites for 100 beds in each of their districts, praised Councilman Steve Hansen on Tuesday for finding a site for up to 180 beds and praised SHRA for their work to make it happen fast. He also urged SHRA to find a way to reduce the nearly $10 million cost for repairs and operations, possibly using ratepayer revenue from utility customers.

“I really want to work with you guys to bring down this cost here. We just have to,” Steinberg said. “Because $10 million for 18 months is too much money. And we need it because we don’t have ongoing general fund money to get thousands off the streets.”

The city expects to receive an additional roughly $11.5 million in state funds and private funds Steinberg is raising, the staff report said. When that money comes in, city officials plan to first spend it to open a shelter at an unannounced location in Councilman Larry Carr’s district in south Sacramento, then on a shelter at a Caltrans-owned lot near the corner of X Street and Alhambra. Both of those low-barrier triage shelters will be in tent-like structures with 100 beds each.

About six people raised concerns about the proposed shelter at the corner of X and Alhambra on Tuesday. That shelter will not be able to open for about a year, and still requires Caltrans and council approval.

Jake Mossawir, CEO of St. Hope Public Schools, raised concerns about the X Street shelter, just a few blocks from Sacramento Charter High School, and also near St. Hope’s PS7 and Oak Park Prep. Mossawir said he wants the shelter to turn away guests who test positive for drugs and alcohol, and also are sex offenders.

“It’s clear that a low-barrier triage site could make circumstances worse for students,” Mossawir said.

Councilman Jay Schenirer, who is proposing the X Street shelter, said he is planning to meet with leaders of schools and youth organizations in the area in May.

“I would never do anything that I think would purposefully put youth in harm’s way,” Schenirer said. “We have plenty of time to have all these discussions.”

Ashby, an alumna from Sacramento Charter High School, said she has a lot of questions about the X Street shelter when it comes back to council for approval.

The city has previously committed to spending about $14 million to open a shelter on Cal Expo property at the southeast end of Ethan Way; a 12-bed shelter for LGBTQ youth in midtown; single family-home shelters for youth; adding triage services to existing services; hiring more city homeless staff; and a downtown streets team for cleanup, the staff report said.

The city will also spend about $1 million in private funds to open four single-family home shelters with five beds each, the council approved Tuesday.

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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.