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Large homeless shelters and affordable housing planned for this Sacramento neighborhood

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Kevin Pierce, who is currently living in a clean and sober living facility, has been homeless for 15 years. He is at the library today to research housing options but says that he, like other people who are homeless, has used the Central Library
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Kevin Pierce, who is currently living in a clean and sober living facility, has been homeless for 15 years. He is at the library today to research housing options but says that he, like other people who are homeless, has used the Central Library

As Sacramento’s housing and homeless crises deepen, city officials are proposing to open a 200-bed homeless shelter with social and health services in a warehouse bordering the Woodlake neighborhood north of the American River.

At the same time, a San Diego-based developer specializing in affordable housing projects is finalizing plans for a 150-unit, low-income apartment complex on an adjacent plot of land that could serve as permanent housing for low-wage workers and those who transition out of the triage facility.

Months before the homeless triage center is completed, however, the city plans to open another larger shelter less than a mile away. That facility – a temporary shelter with at least 300 beds – would be open this winter in a warehouse on industrial Railroad Drive, off Del Paso Boulevard.

Most of the focus for now is on the triage and housing project.

In an interview with The Sacramento Bee on Wednesday, Mayor Darrell Steinberg and Councilman Allen Warren detailed plans for a 4.5-acre complex along Arden Way and Evergreen Street, adjacent to the Royal Oaks light rail station and the former site of the Lumberjack building materials store.

“This will offer levels of housing that is very much needed in our community,” Warren said, adding he is only supporting the homeless shelter site because of the affordable housing plan. “The redevelopment plan I envisioned for that site is largely taking place.”

Community HousingWorks, a nonprofit developer and owner of hundreds of affordable housing units throughout the state, is negotiating the purchase of a plot of land facing Arden Way from Regional Transit. Anne Wilson, a senior vice president with the company, said the developer thinks the proposed triage shelter site “is probably a great location” and that the developer supports placing the shelter close to its planned apartment complex.

Wilson said the apartment building would include one-, two- and three-bedroom units, and that retail spaces would fill the first floor facing Arden Way. Units will generally be affordable for individuals and families making 30 to 60 percent of the area’s median income.

As Community HousingWorks finalizes its proposal, the city has begun the process of buying land from Regional Transit directly across the light rail tracks – at 2051 Evergreen St. – with the goal of opening the homeless shelter there by next summer. In addition to a 24-hour shelter, the facility would have on-site social and health services, and would allow the homeless to bring their pets and belongings inside.

A city staff report earlier this month estimated the site would need up to $2.6 million in upfront costs, plus an additional $3 million annually for operations; the mayor said the funding source for the shelter has not been identified. The shelter would allow both single adults and couples, and could have space for young homeless individuals.

Steinberg sought to ease neighborhood fears by arguing the shelter will help improve the quality of life of residents in the area.

“The primary focus of this project will be reducing the homeless population of North Sacramento,” the mayor said.

The winter shelters will also help in that effort, the mayor said.

City officials are in negotiations with a property owner to open two adjacent 150-bed temporary shelters on Railroad Drive. Those centers would be open by Dec. 1 and would replace the current winter sanctuary program that rotates through houses of worship.

Homeless service provider First Steps Communities has been pegged by the city to run one of the shelters, and city officials are trying to find another operator to run the other 150-bed shelter.

Like the triage center, the winter shelters would allow pets and remain open 24 hours a day. The warehouses the city has identified for the shelters are close to the American River Parkway, as well as a bike path and levee along Steelhead Creek where large homeless encampments emerged last winter during the rainy months.

Working for an organization that helps reach out to the homeless, Midtown Association's Luis Villa discusses the organization's cleaning and safety procedures and services provided.

Ryan Lillis: 916-321-1085, @Ryan_Lillis

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