By Sarah Mizes-Tan
In his State of the State speech last week, Gov. Gavin Newsom discussed an executive order that opened up 286 state properties across California to be used as sites for temporary housing for the homeless. But the sites aren’t evenly distributed throughout the state, and questions still remain about how these sites will be used and how they’ll be coordinated with various city organizations.
According to the governor’s office, the sites were chosen as a subset of properties that had already been designated by the governor for affordable housing. These sites were chosen after they met a list of criteria, mainly that they were not next to schools or daycares and that they were handicap accessible.
Here's where the sites are located in Sacramento and throughout the state:
Sacramento has five sites designated specifically for housing the homeless. The state says the use of the sites will be up to cities to coordinate, although the city and county of Sacramento say they’re still reviewing the designated areas and have not yet drawn up any plans for the majority of the sites.
The list includes Cal Expo, a site that the city of Sacramento had previously proposed as a homeless shelter but was initially rejected by the Cal Expo Board of Directors.
Sacramento City Council has already approved and the city has already begun work at one of the sites designated by the governor. A site located under Highway 50 has been designated as a new shelter with 100 beds. It will be a temporary shelter where homeless adults living nearby will be able to stabilize their lives before moving into more permanent housing.
Some advocates worry about the distribution of some of the sites. The governor’s office says the distribution of sites was simply where areas could be leased from Caltrans were available. Caltrans has been partnering with the state to lease parcels of its land for temporary housing.
Though there are 286 across the state, 49 of them are located in Sonoma County, mostly clustered around a Caltrans corridor through Santa Rosa. According to its 2019 Point in Time homeless count, Santa Rosa had 2,951 homeless persons. While Sacramento’s homeless population is nearly double that number, the city will receive just a fraction of Santa Rosa’s number of designated sites.
Additionally, the list does not have any designated areas for temporary homeless shelters in Butte County, where the most recent count puts the unsheltered population at around 900 people, many displaced by the Camp Fire.
San Francisco has only one designated site, but nearby Alameda County has the largest amount of acreage designated for temporary housing. San Diego also has relatively little land for homeless housing, just 3 acres, despite the fact that its homeless population is similar in size to Sacramento’s.
Advocates have said sites located too far from where homeless communities already exist could be problematic. Paula Lomazzi, a board member with Sacramento Safe Ground, a homeless advocacy organization, said she was worried that mandates like this could mean segregating homeless people away from their communities.
“Our worry is they take this big piece of land outside the city and just put everybody over there,” Lomazzi said. “Because it’s taking people out of their community, separating them from society. It’s just problematic when you think about people wanting to locate homeless people in one place outside of the city, getting rid of them, out of sight out of mind.”
Despite the initial concerns, many city officials say they haven’t yet taken a close look at the distribution of sites and how they might fit into pre-existing housing plans. State agencies will have until February 28 to coordinate the next steps with local officials.
Clarification: A previous version of this story misstated Gov. Gavin Newsom's statements about the 286 state properties now available for temporary housing for the homeless in his State of the State address. It has been updated.
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