Editorials

Sacramento City Council should move forward with homeless shelter – against councilman’s wishes

Mayor speaks in favor of homeless shelter in Meadowview during community meeting

Mayor Darrell Steinberg speaks in favor of a homeless shelter in Sacramento's Meadowview neighborhood near the Pannell Center during a community meeting at Genesis Missionary Baptist Church on Monday, August 12, 2019.
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Mayor Darrell Steinberg speaks in favor of a homeless shelter in Sacramento's Meadowview neighborhood near the Pannell Center during a community meeting at Genesis Missionary Baptist Church on Monday, August 12, 2019.

It’s time for the Sacramento City Council to show courage in addressing the city’s growing crisis of homelessness. It can start tonight by approving Mayor Darrell Steinberg’s plan to build a temporary “rehousing shelter” for women and children in the Meadowview neighborhood.

To do this, councilmembers would have to override the objections of Councilman Larry Carr, who represents the district. While this might offend the council’s decorum, it respects the dignity and humanity of Sacramento residents struggling to survive in the streets. Many of those people come from Carr’s district.

Carr doesn’t like the fact that the proposed shelter will be near the Sam and Bonnie Pannell Community Center in Meadowview. Yet he has failed to identify any other suitable location to house his community’s homeless population.

In an op-ed he wrote for The Sacramento Bee, Carr depicted homeless Sacramentans as pariahs who should be kept out of the sight of children. He cited “drug addiction, sexual abuse and exploitation issues, untreated mental health disorders and pets” as the horrors that would be unleashed if a temporary shelter gets built in his district.

“Can you imagine sending your child to the enriching youth programs at the Pannell Center with the knowledge that they may encounter residents of a low-barrier homeless shelter?” asked Carr.

Opinion

Earth to Councilman Carr: Sacramento’s children encounter homeless people living in our streets every day. The question is not whether our children are exposed to the reality of homelessness. The question is whether our children see the leaders of their city taking necessary and moral action to provide shelter so that human beings aren’t forced to sleep in filth and danger on the streets.

We hope our leaders will set a good example.

The 2019 “point-in-time” survey of the city’s homeless population revealed that the vast majority of Sacramento’s homeless come from Sacramento. In addition, 20 percent of people experiencing homelessness are families with children. Only 9 percent of Sacramento’s homeless report having drug or alcohol problems, and only 1 in 5 have mental health issues.

In other words, most of Sacramento’s homeless are victims of economic circumstance.

“It’s an issue that sparks protests, emotional pleas and vigorous (and sometimes hostile) debate,” wrote Alexandra Yoon-Hendricks and Michael Finch II in a Sacramento Bee story debunking myths about Sacramento’s homeless population. “It also is an area rife with misinformation.”

Exhibit A: Councilman Carr.

Mayor Steinberg deserves credit for doing everything in his power to make Sacramento a place where human beings struggling with homelessness receive shelter rather than scorn. After Carr expressed his opposition to a low-barrier triage shelter in Meadowview, Steinberg went out of his way to find a compromise. On Monday, he proposed designating the Meadowview shelter as a place for single women and women with children.

Carr remains opposed. So, now it’s up to the City Council to do the right thing and move forward against the wishes of the councilman, who has decided to retire after this term. They should approve the Meadowview shelter, as well as a second shelter site near the W-X corridor in central Sacramento.

Sacramento will not rise to this pressing challenge if its leaders bury their heads in the sand and its communities reject local solutions for its most vulnerable members. At the end of today, there will be two types of politicians on Sacramento’s City Council: Those who support solutions, and those we will hold accountable for blocking all possible progress.

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