Sacramento Leaders Plan to Expand Services for Homeless

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SACRAMENTO -- Sacramento’s homeless triage shelter will not only remain in operation for the next six months but others will be opened in all areas of the city.

Robert Mendibles and his girlfriend were one of the more than 140 homeless people at the city’s homeless triage center.

The shelter provides meals, showers and an array of services.

Mendibles suffered a brain injury and is on disability. The shelter has given him a plan.

"We’re planning on moving out to get our own place," he explained.

Mary Buck said she’s lucky to get a spot there.

"They’ll get in, they just have to wait their turn," Buck said.

The triage center at the base of Del Paso Boulevard near the American River was intended to be a temporary winter shelter. But several closing dates came and went because the need was so great and private money was raised to keep it open.

On Monday, Mayor Darrell Steinberg announced the city was able to extend its lease on the shelter site for at least six more months, but that could possibly extend to a year.

In addition, there’s a plan for city council members to open smaller triage shelters throughout the city.

"A hundred additional beds for triage shelters for the homeless in each of their districts," Steinberg said.

Ideally, that would mean 800 beds for the homeless with the goal of turning over those beds many times a year as many of them find permanent housing.

The current triage shelter is in Councilman Jess Harris' district. He said sharing the homeless responsibility would only be fair.

"We share the burden equally all across the city," Harris said. "Then no particular group has a reason to complain."

The plan would potentially help several thousand homeless people a year -- but potentially is the key word. Even with more full-service shelters open, there’s still the issue of homeless people who will never go there no matter how much help is offered.

Caroline Kennedy and her homeless friends were well aware of the triage shelter. But she said she has been to similar shelters before and never bothered to go there.

"You had to be in at 9 o’clock at night no matter if you're in the program or not," Kennedy said.

"If you go back again and again and again until you develop some of that trust we will get most of those people in," Steinberg said.

What is missing is the cost of opening up additional shelters. Even with state money that’s available, the city would have to come up with a significant portion of the new costs.

The mayor was able to raise $5 million in private donations to keep the current shelter open. Steinberg says the city already spends millions on homeless problems and that he will defend whatever budget that will be crafted for the plan.

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