Sacramento Delays Action on Part of Homeless Plan, Council Unanimously Approves Winter Shelter

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SACRAMENTO -- Specific promises made by the mayor about security were the biggest issue for a worried community set to host the first phase in Sacramento's new three-step plan to solve homelessness.

"One hundred and seventy-five thousand dollars to the police department for two full-time police officers," Mayor Darrell Steinberg said Tuesday.

That staffing is above what would be required in the operator's contract for on-site security and security cameras.

The extra security was one of the mitigation efforts requested by Councilman Allen Warren in a Tuesday memo to the mayor in advance of what would be a unanimous vote on the project.

Phase one of the city's homeless proposal is a now a 200 instead of 300 bed winter sanctuary planned for Railroad Drive in North Sacramento, opening in early December.

It will be run Volunteers of America.

The mayor says success there is the key to any action on the rest of his plan and is working to soothe community fears, but many who live in the area are still upset.

"In the staff report it talks about there will be no impact on the American River Parkway. Come on, it's a half a mile," complained David Plag with the Del Paso Boulevard Partnership.

One of the 50 people who stepped up to speak on this matter questioned the council about the fine detail of operation at such a sanctuary.

"If someone is asked to leave because of their behavior? Do you just send them out? Has that been thought out?" one woman asked the council.

The second phase of city's plan is a 24/7 triage center and 200 bed shelter to be located on Evergreen Street, followed by low-income housing on Arden Way.

Sacramento's council was to vote on buying the Evergreen site from Regional Transit Tuesday, but the RT board decided Monday not to facilitate that sale by designating the land as surplus.

"There were a lot of people there without a lot of energy and some protest and I think it maybe flustered a couple of board members," said Councilman and RT board member Jeff Harris.

Harris' fellow R-T board members said they held back because they didn't realize the GM and not the board would have final say on the sale and were unaware what it would be used for.

That lack of knowledge of just what is happening - a problem for those crafting solutions and the communities asked to be a part of them.

The concentration of possibly three facilities to address homelessness, all in North Sac, has been anything but popular and there's a lot of confusion.

One problem with the Evergreen site?

"I think we're stuck on the 24/7 more permanent triage for that particular site. The vast majority of that site is going to be set aside for a transit oriented development opportunity with housing and retail," offered District Two Councilman Allen Warren.

Each new homeless facility is slated for mental health services paid for through the 'Whole Person Grant' that has been awarded to the city.

Sacramento is looking to Sacramento County to offer $53 million dollars in matching funds to make the grant dollars do the most for the most people.

Answers about a match could come at the county's Nov. 7 board of supervisors' meeting.

Community members say the work of pulling almost 2,000 people off the streets should be shared with all segments of the city and they feel plans were solidified without community input - an issue the mayor took on directly.

"We are transparent people, all these gentlemen certainly are, I am ... it's been the hallmark of my public career. We're trying to solve a problem here," he said.

As part of the mitigation efforts for North Sacramento suggested by Warren, the council's unanimous vote on this plan means the area will also get $500,000 in additional economic development money.

A reporting and information system will be created to track how the sanctuary is performing week-to-week during the five months it's expected to operate.

As the council took its most concrete steps to solving homelessness in California's capitol city, members also approved almost $144,000 for Wind Youth Services to open 20 more beds for young people in need once that agency moves to its new location.