Editorials

Sacramento needs courage to tackle homelessness. The City Council just showed some

Mayor talks investing in Sacramento neighborhoods, avoiding Seattle, S.F. pratfall

In their exclusive interview on homelessness in Sacramento, Mayor Darrell Steinberg tells Bee columnist Marcos Breton about the investments in local neighborhoods and avoiding the problems seen in "out of control" Seattle and San Francisco.
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In their exclusive interview on homelessness in Sacramento, Mayor Darrell Steinberg tells Bee columnist Marcos Breton about the investments in local neighborhoods and avoiding the problems seen in "out of control" Seattle and San Francisco.

A majority of the Sacramento City Council showed real courage when they voted on Tuesday to approve Mayor Darrell Steinberg’s proposal for a 100-bed shelter for women in children in Meadowview.

The 6-3 vote overrode the objections of Councilman Larry Carr, who represents Meadowview. Councilwoman Angelique Ashby and Councilman Allen Warren joined Carr in voting against the shelter for women and children.

Fortunately, most of the council voted to move forward with the shelter, which is part of Steinberg’s plan to place eight 100-bed shelters throughout the city, one in each district. Their willingness to move forward demonstrates the kind of leadership Sacramento needs to solve its homelessness crisis.

While placing something in Carr’s district against his wishes may offend the City Council’s decorum, it was necessary to save lives in what is becoming an ever deadlier situation on the city’s streets.

New data from the Sacramento Regional Coalition to End Homelessness shows 132 homeless people died in Sacramento County in 2018 – up from 71 in 2016 and 124 in 2017.

Opinion

Many of the growing number of homeless people in the county are women and children. Sacramento State researchers estimate 1,150 women and children are living outside or in their cars in the city, based on the biennial Point in Time count conducted in January. The count estimated that 5,570 people are homeless in the county, and included in its numbers people who are living in shelters. This figure is likely an undercount of the actual number of homeless people in Sacramento.

Part of what makes the Meadowview shelter so crucial is timing. The shelter is slated to open this winter.

“We cannot turn our back on 1,150 homeless women and children this winter,” Steinberg said.

We agree.

The Meadowview shelter will be low-barrier, meaning women and children who stay there won’t be screened for admission.

Ashby and Carr argued against the Meadowview shelter, essentially saying that it’s not appropriate to put a shelter for homeless women and children near the Pannell Community Center. Ashby further said homeless children should not be in a shelter that is low-barrier.

But the alternative is to delay action, leaving women and children exposed to the elements when they could be sheltered and connected with social services. That would truly be indecent.

Ashby and Carr didn’t just oppose the Meadowview shelter on Tuesday. They were also the only two councilmembers to oppose a shelter proposed under the W-X freeway overpass, in the district of Councilman Jay Schenirer, who voted for it.

Despite heated disagreements, there was some unified action on homelessness Tuesday. The council voted unanimously to add mental health, medical and rehousing services at two shelters in the River District and approved spending on human waste and needle cleanup there. The council also voted to fund shelter beds for LGBT homeless and for youth.

Sheltering women and children on an empty lot in Meadowview shelter isn’t a perfect solution, but it beats leaving them outside to weather the rain and cold this winter.

At least one resident of Meadowview who originally opposed the shelter changed her mind during Tuesday’s City Council meeting. Sequita Thompson, grandmother of Stephon Clark, had expressed concern about the shelter’s proximity to the Pannell center pool.

But after listening to arguments from both sides, Thompson told The Sacramento Bee’s Theresa Clift, “I want it for the children.”

Moving forward, we hope the City Council will continue to act boldly and take effective action to serve the best interests of all of Sacramento’s residents – including those who currently find themselves homeless.

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