Sacramento City Council Holds Public Meeting on Homelessness

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SACRAMENTO --

Sacramento City Council held its first public meeting for its sub-committee on homelessness, allowing residents and activists a look into its long-term plans for addressing the large numbers of homeless people who sleep outside on a regular basis.

This comes on the heels of a trip that 20 city officials took to Seattle to observe its homeless services.

Sacramento city officials, police, and homeless advocates are collaborating to find ways to put a roof, or at least a temporary tent over the heads of the city's homeless.

"Here in this nice big city of half a million people, there's a thousand homeless people not sleeping in shelters," said Sister Libby Fernandez, director of Loaves and Fishes, a shelter in downtown Sacramento.

Fernandez traveled with the city coalition to Seattle. She was one of the community leaders to make a formal presentation Monday evening about what she perceived as effective solutions implemented in Seattle, and how she believes they might be implemented in Sacramento.

"We saw and heard a lot of great ideas from tent cities to tiny homes, to parking lots for people with just vehicles to just care,” said Fernandez.

"It certainly opened our eyes to some new possibilities,” said Emily Halcon, homeless services coordinator for the City of Sacramento. Halcon says what officials saw in Seattle could be a starting point here.

Homeless tent camps remain outside neighborhoods for 90 days at a time, no drugs or alcohol allowed, and are governed by those who live there. Homeless tent-goers provide security and cleanup services for nearby neighborhoods.

But, Halcon says, they have to be temporary. She says people who live there need to work toward finding permanent homes.

"It really is only as good as the long-term solutions we have here,” said Halcon.

She says the Seattle camp communities that worked were the ones that established partnerships with the city itself, unlike the camps set up by protesters outside of Sacramento City Hall.

"These are city sanctioned encampments, not just encampments set up by people experiencing homelessness,” said Halcon.

"We need safe places tonight. So a safe ground where people can say hey I want to be here, I'm homeless, can you help me to the next step,” said Fernandez.

The city will hold four subsequent meetings for its sub-committee on homelessness, none of which will be open to the public.

In April, council members say they expect to have recommendations established and will again hold a public meeting to unveil them.

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