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Sacramento’s Newest Homeless Shelter Was Set To Close, Then This Local Hospital Stepped Up

Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio

The Winter Triage Shelter's Care Coordination Manager Anna Darzins counsels shelter guest Paula Richardson about some overwhelming stresses in Richardson's life, and the pair set a coffee date for the next day.

Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio

Sacramento’s newest homeless shelter was set to close at the end of August — but a local hospital system has stepped up to pay to keep it open.

Dignity Health is donating $1.2 million to fund the city’s Winter Homeless Triage Center through November.

The center opened in December and was originally planned to close in March, but donations from private groups and Sutter Health kept it open through the summer.

Now, Dignity Health’s donation means another three months of medical treatment, guaranteed meals, computer access and heating or air conditioning for the 200 homeless people served in the converted warehouse.

Laurie Harting, senior vice president of operations for Dignity Health’s greater Sacramento region, said it’s part of a broader effort to keep homeless people out of the emergency room.

“All hospitals are being faced with these challenges, and during the very hot summer months and the very cold winter months it’s worse,” she said. “ A lot of homeless people need to get off of those streets and be in a warm, safe environment. So they use the hospitals many times for that.”

The triage center costs about $334,000 a month to run — that's a little less than $1,100 per person, per month, or $37 a day.

About half of the people at the shelter have a substance abuse problem, 60 percent live with mental illness and 90 percent have a disability, according to the city.

Hospitals are also looking at long-term solutions to homelessness and poverty, and all four of Sacramento’s health systems are part of the city’s Whole Person Care program, which aims to help homeless people have a successful transition from the hospital into the community.

“We’ve been able to, through education and services, help them find permanent housing,” Harting said. “We know it works, and we want to expand that program even further. We’re making a dent.”

Harting said Dignity’s donation came from their community benefit funding. It will be used to re-install heating units in the winter and maintain a street team that provides services to the homeless downtown.

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