Homelessness takes center stage at State of Downtown breakfast event

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DOWNTOWN SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KTXL) -- Nearly a thousand Sacramento stakeholders came together for the State of Downtown breakfast Tuesday morning to highlight the growth of downtown Sacramento over the past year and celebrate the direction the city is heading.

"Last year, our economic development efforts helped open 35 new businesses downtown," Downtown Sacramento Partnership Executive Director Michael Ault told FOX40. "So there's a lot of excitement that we've talked about, but we also know the perception of a clean and safe downtown is a reality for us. Candidly, what's happening on our streets downtown is tragic."

Sacramento's homeless crisis took center stage at the event and was the focus of Mayor Darrell Steinberg's address.

"Can we get thousands of people off the streets? I believe we can," said Steinberg.

The mayor says he's working with Gov. Gavin Newsom on a state mandate to force communities across California to get people off the streets. Voters could see the mandate on the 2020 ballot.

"Homelessness is a crisis of epic proportion and yet everything we do is optional and voluntary. The state does not have an obligation to meet a result. The counties don't and the cities don't. And the results speak for themselves," explained Steinberg.

Organizers brought in a household name as the keynote speaker. TV and radio personality Dr. Drew Pinksy took the stage to explain how homelessness has evolved in the U.S. and how serious the issue has become.

"You're losing here in Sacramento about one person every other day. This is a slow genocide. What does your body count have to be, Sacramento? What's your body count before we're going to go ahead and treat these people. Come on," said Pinsky.

But Pinsky said the progress he's seeing in Sacramento gives him hope and that the city will find a solution.

"And I want to tell you, being here in Sacramento, I'm hopeful for this city. I'm not hopeful for Los Angeles. I'm very hopeful for Sacramento. What I'm hearing, I love," said Pinksy.

Mayor Steinberg said he's working with the governor to look for public land to build a 23-acre haven for the homeless, where wrap-around services and shelters would be provided.

The mayor said he's hoping to work together with community partners to find that parcel of land in the next month.

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