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Tensions High at Community Meeting on Proposed Homeless Shelters in North Sacramento

NORTH SACRAMENTO -- Under a bright autumn sun, North Sacramento's Woodlake neighborhood  looks idyllic.

That's part of the reason Rachel House opened her Sunshine Center home daycare there, but some of what's happening in the area is clouding her choice.

"If they're gonna want to get into my car they will and they have. I often leave it unlocked because I've had broken windows, and I'm just over the broken windows," she said, offering up  just one of the concerns about cohort of the city's 2,000 plus homeless she shares the streets with.

Another problem near her home and business affects Woodlake Elementary, where she used to be PTA president.

"They had a big problem, kids being harassed on the way to school, over here by the light rail station," she said.

House and her neighbors loudly laid such concerns at the feet of their mayor and council during a packed meeting about a 300-bed winter sanctuary planned for Railroad Drive, a triage center and 200 bed shelter for Evergreen and 150 low-income housing units on Arden Way.

For those who think the city's using the troubled north area as a dumping ground because much of the population is poor and doesn't vote, passions ran high.

They say if this is such a good idea, "why the hell aren't the other district representatives beating their fist on the table saying, where's my shelter?" shouted one man to loud applause.

Insults slipped out on both sides.

One woman screamed at Councilman Allen Warren for trying to preach to the crowd about ethics.

He shouted back that she didn't need to lecture him and called for the next speaker, also telling the crowd, "if you don't want to be here, leave. You don't want to hear what we're talking about, leave."

Mayor Darrell Steinberg snapped at a frequent city council visitor and critic who'd made a comment.

"He can't be in favor of this proposal 'cause he can't be in favor of anything," said Steinberg as a loud chorus of boos drowned him out.

Of those who spoke during the 90 minutes of public Q&A, only about six people were in support of the plan.

"It's very appropriate that it happens here," said Lisa Rock, to a lot of boos and a few claps.

There were stark warnings for those on all sides of this debate from someone formerly homeless.

"To get up and spit about someone who ain't got nowhere to lay their head and nowhere to wash their ass, watch it, 'cause it could happen to you in a heartbeat," said Jimmy Andrews.

The mayor promised the site on Evergreen would only open after documented success at the proposed new winter sanctuary -- with added security -- but for many there's little faith that that's possible.

Though the meeting went 30 minutes past the scheduled end time, the disgruntled crowd filed out of the meeting, long before all had said their piece.

Headed for a side door, the mayor had this to say about the night's tense tone, "there's a difference  between frustration about not being heard and simply opposing a set of solutions to try and oppose the homeless problem."

Steinberg and other city leaders North Sacramento has the right sized buildings that can provide a partial solution of the right scale for the city's homeless problem.

He intends to go to the county Tuesday and ask for matching funds to help pay for the mental health services that would need to be attached to these facilities.

Though nothing is finalized yet, the city plans to have a winter sanctuary open by early December.

Another homeless facility is also being planned for Florin Road.

North Sacramentans have called for other parts of the city like that to be tapped.