Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg has announced plans to create a “master plan” to address the city’s homelessness crisis.
The proposal would aim to pre-approve sites for temporary housing solutions ahead of time rather than leaving it to individual projects to get sites permitted. Steinberg said in the past, this piecemeal approach has slowed the process.
“It takes many months to figure out how to match the funding with the right provider, to find the right site for a tiny home village,” he said. “The process is often laborious. And it’s in part because if we’re also honest about it, this is a relatively new role for a city. We’re not a health and human services agency.”
Steinberg referenced projects like the proposed 100-bed shelter at a vacant lot near X Street and Alhambra Boulevard underneath a stretch of the Interstate 80 freeway. The project hit federal road blocks in arguments over who owned the vacant lot near X Street and Alhambra Boulevard, but it is now expected to move forward. The mayor hoped that in creating pre-approved plots of land for temporary shelters, they could sidestep this problem in the future.
“I would rather rip the Band-Aid off all at once with all of those sites and have those difficult conversations and even arguments, so that once that vote is taken, it represents the will of the City Council and the will of the city and then we move forward,” Steinberg said.
Bob Erlenbusch of the Sacramento Regional Coalition to End Homelessness said he was glad the city was taking the lead in trying to streamline solutions to Sacramento’s housing crisis, but he also said he hoped the city would focus on solutions for now.
“I would hope that we’re on a fast track and that we have a plan by June, but until then — and especially now, as we’re in winter and it will start raining soon — that we open up some warming centers in the city to keep people alive,” Erlenbusch said.
Last month, incoming Councilmember Katie Valenzuela announced a District 4-specific task force made up of local business owners, neighborhood associations and community members to discuss homelessness solutions in the central city. Valenzuela said the task force will be holding its first meeting this month, and she hopes it can help guide some of the future citywide discussions on housing solutions.
“I think we’ve already learned a lot about what works and what doesn’t work, and I think we can really put in a model that makes a lot of sense for both the residents nearby and the unhoused folks we’re hoping to serve,” Valenzuela said.
She added the District 4 task force is already looking at state parking lots as potential areas for temporary housing. The group hopes they will be able to take part in the larger citywide discussions that will start in the new year.
“Part of the strategy is not just saying we want this but where do we want this? We can say we want short term camping and parking, but if we don’t have enough sites available to accommodate the folks in District 4 and the city, it won’t really solve the emergency issue we’re trying to deal with,” she said.
Steinberg hopes to begin discussions with community members and city councilmembers about potential sites in the new year. The mayor has also put about $4.5 million of federal coronavirus aid to go into rehousing and temporary housing solutions.
The county’s last Point-in-Time count, a federally mandated tally of the city’s unhoused population, was taken in 2019 and showed about 3,900 unsheltered people in Sacramento. An official count since the pandemic began hasn’t been conducted, but advocates estimate the population has increased since this past March.
Correction: This article previously incorrectly stated City Council when would be taking a vote on this proposal. The council will be looking at this proposal in January.
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