In North Sacramento, a fiercely independent and often overlooked part of the city, news that city officials are planning to open two large homeless shelters in the area is being met with an almost resigned sense of aggravation.
The neighborhoods north of the American River are among the most impoverished in Sacramento. Voter turnout is often low, creating a sense among residents that they carry far less political clout than their wealthier counterparts in other parts of town. And the area is seeing a new influx of attention that many are uneasy about: at least three dozen permit applications have been filed with the city to open indoor marijuana growing operations in North Sacramento.
Now, with hundreds of shelter beds for the homeless on tap, residents and business owners are again feeling picked on.
“They may as well start selling nuclear waste sites around here,” said Shane Curry, board chairman for the Del Paso Boulevard Partnership and president of the North Sacramento Chamber of Commerce. “It just seems like it never stops.”
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Mayor Darrell Steinberg and Councilman Allen Warren revealed plans on Wednesday for a 200-bed homeless shelter next to the Royal Oaks light rail station, adjacent to the Woodlake neighborhood. A San Diego-based developer is also proposing to construct a 150-unit affordable housing complex next to the shelter, and Steinberg and Warren said the complex will go far toward addressing the city’s housing and homeless crises.
Before the homeless shelter opens next year, city officials are planning to open a separate winter homeless shelter with more than 300 beds about 1 mile away on Railroad Drive, a dead-end street running off Del Paso Boulevard. That shelter would be open 24 hours a day and would replace the current winter sanctuary program that rotates through houses of worship.
North Sacramento residents and businesses said they were surprised by the plans, revealed to The Sacramento Bee and, later Wednesday, in a small, tense meeting attended by city officials, neighborhood leaders and business groups.
“It’s surprising, frustrating and disappointing,” Curry said. “I just don’t see any upside for our area. It’s not like these people (those seeking shelter space) are going to become contributing, productive citizens and contribute to the safety and welfare of the area.”
Warren, who represents North Sacramento, said “we definitely don’t want to be a dumping ground for anything negative.”
Warren and Steinberg said the shelters would serve the growing homeless population of North Sacramento. Curry, who has owned the Casa Bella Galleria furniture store on Del Paso Boulevard for 15 years, said the situation is the worst he has seen. He said he regularly finds homeless individuals sleeping in his doorway and human feces in front of his store.
Curry and others said they would have an easier time accepting the city’s plans if other parts of Sacramento also were being asked to also host large shelters.
“What are the citizens of North Natomas being asked to do, or the Pocket or East Sacramento or Land Park?” asked Larry Glover-Meade, president of the Woodlake Neighborhood Association. “Why aren’t they being asked to be part of a comprehensive solution? We wouldn’t ask McKinley Park to have the only homeless shelter in Sacramento.”
Warren said he agrees that other parts of the city need to do their part.
“We need the City Council and the mayor’s office and the entire city to step up,” he said. “This is not a problem for District Two to solve by itself. I’m going to expect there to be announcements from other districts as well. Soon.”
Steinberg responded to neighborhood complaints with a statement saying the city is “committed to opening multiple sites.”
“We recognize that while the capacity of this proposed triage center is substantial, it is not enough to adequately address the size of Sacramento’s homeless crisis,” Steinberg said. “Additional facilities across the city must be opened to balance and serve the need, but we must act with urgency and push forward where and when we can to get our collective arms around the crisis.”