The Homeless

Sacramento to consider new options such as tent city, cabins to address homeless crisis

Under Mayor Darrell Steinberg’s leadership, the city of Sacramento has focused on opening large shelters with services as the main mechanism to address the city’s worsening homeless crisis.

But some City Council members have other ideas they say could be less costly and serve more people.

Councilwoman Angelique Ashby and the Sacramento Housing and Redevelopment Authority will Tuesday propose a plan to fund five different shelter ideas to house the city’s homeless. The plan includes options for a tent city, cabins and a safe parking zone; the council could approve some or all of the options. The proposal also incorporates ideas proposed by Councilmen Allen Warren, Jeff Harris and Rick Jennings.

The city currently has one shelter open, at the Capitol Park Hotel downtown, with shelters set to open for adults in North Oak Park and for women and children in Meadowview in the coming months. Those shelters cost about $10 million each to open and operate for two years. The city is running low on funding, though it expects to get about $14 million in state funding and additional private dollars that Steinberg will raise, the mayor has said.

Ashby, who’s been a vocal critic of the large shelters, especially the Meadowview facility, is hoping the council will agree to fund some of the other ideas, even if it means putting one or both of the planned large shelters on hold.

“The goal of bringing the Five Point Proposal forward is to bring a continuum rather than a one size fits all option for homelessness because we know that doesn’t work,” Ashby said. “We can begin to diversify the effort by having programs that work together.”

The city’s first large shelter, on Railroad Drive, served 658 people. It permanently housed about 160 people, and temporarily housed another 100 during the 17 months it was open. Steinberg called it a success, though he said he wants new shelters to house more people more quickly. Ashby, however, said spending $30,000 per permanently housed person – or $18,000 for every person placed into permanent or temporary housing – was too much.

During a meeting last month, Steinberg said he strongly supports other ideas, like scattered site homes, but not as replacements to the Meadowview and North Oak Park shelters.

Bob Erlenbusch of the Sacramento Regional Coalition to End Homelessness agreed. He said his organization supports the five proposals, but only in addition to the two shelters.

“The City Council has already approved Broadway/X and Meadowview (shelters) and those programs need to open now to save homeless people’s lives,” Erlenbusch wrote in a letter to the City Council.

The five proposals floated by Ashby and other council members include:

50 scattered-site homes

What: Homes where 50 families, including domestic violence survivors, can live with services. Could house up to 300 people during two years. People could start moving into units two months after the council approves funding.

Where: Ashby’s Natomas district and Councilman Larry Carr’s south Sacramento district.

Cost: About $5.3 million for two years.

Safe parking zone

What: Parking lot where homeless people can sleep in 20 vehicles overnight, with on-site security, restrooms, showers and services. Lot would be open from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. for two years. Gov. Gavin Newsom vetoed a bill that would provide state funding to municipalities across the state for these lots.

Where: Councilman Rick Jennings’ south Sacramento district.

Cost: $1.5 million to $2.3 million, depending on location, for two years.

A “tent city”

What: 100 uniform sleeping tents, including services, security, mobile restrooms and showers, meals, laundry and kennels. Modeled after a tent camp program in Modesto. It would stay open for two years, serving an estimated 200 adults total.

Where: Warren’s north Sacramento district.

Cost: About $5.4 million for two years.

Sleeping cabins

What: 50 sleeping cabins for women and children, including security, services, meals, laundry and kennels. Would house about 300 people over two years.

Where: Councilman Jeff Harris’ north Sacramento or East Sacramento district.

Cost: About $9.1 million for two years.

Motel conversion

What: Converting a motel into about 100 units for the homeless, similar to Capitol Park Hotel, including services and meals. Would serve about 400 people during two years.

Where: Harris’ north Sacramento or East Sacramento district.

Cost: About $8.4 million for two years, in addition to about $600,000 for the initial work.

The proposals will be outlined during the City Council’s meeting at 5 p.m. Tuesday in City Hall’s council chambers.

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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.