Sacramento’s city and county governments unanimously approved a partnership agreement on Tuesday that calls for the agencies to work together to reduce the region’s growing homelessness emergency.
Called the Homeless Services Partnership Agreement, the deal commits the county to opening up to 600 new homeless shelter beds. It also requires the local governments to form joint city-county outreach teams to visit encampments.
Those teams for the first time would include mental health professionals who could diagnose people living in camps on-the-spot and refer them for mental health, addiction treatment or other services.
Tuesday’s approval by the City Council and County Board of Supervisors also paves the way for the city to implement voter-approved Measure O. That new city law makes it easier for Sacramento to ban homeless encampments on public property, under certain circumstances.
County approves partnership deal
County officials praised the partnership deal, but also said it won’t solve the region’s homelessness crisis anytime soon. County Executive Ann Edwards said, in the near-term, the general public “will see outreach teams out there regularly” working with residents at Sacramento’s largest encampments. That doesn’t mean the camps will disappear right away.
But over time, Edwards said, the teams will work to create relationships with unhoused residents and connect them with shelter and other services. The teams will also be charged with removing garbage from the camps.
Supervisor Phil Serna, whose district includes central Sacramento, called the partnership deal “tremendous.”
“I think this is a great way for us all to understand what we all want, which is a new day in Sacramento,” Serna said.
At the meeting, several homeless advocates called on supervisors to create a stakeholder committee to review the agreement’s progress. The board did not act on that suggestion.
Advocates also asked the county to focus on housing as the key strategy to easing the region’s homelessness crisis.
City OKs agreement
The council unanimously approved the agreement on Tuesday, with many officials acknowledging that the city and county will continue developing plans to reduce homelessness. Mayor Darrell Steinberg and Council members Eric Guerra, Jeff Harris and Jay Schenirer worked with city staff on negotiating the deal.
“I think it’s important that people know this is not the be all and end all,” Schenirer said. “It’s critically important, but it will get improved and adjusted as needed along the way.”
The agreement says the city and county must create a protocol on how they will meet outlined requirements within 60 days. Approving the agreement also doesn’t automatically trigger Measure O to go into effect, City Manager Howard Chan said. The county plans to certify election results Wednesday.
Chan added that city staff will present an implementation plan for the so-called Emergency Shelter and Enforcement Act at a future meeting. The council previously added a requirement saying Measure O can only go into effect if the city and county sign an agreement on homeless services.
Council members Katie Valenzuela and Mai Vang, who opposed putting Measure O on the ballot, also praised the overall partnership agreement between the city and county.
“This will do so much to triage the immediate needs of people who are living on the street today,” Valenzuela said. “And really reducing that burden that we’re all feeling or experiencing as we watch our neighbors on the street suffering.”
Valenzuela questioned other aspects of the deal, including a proposed housing plan and leadership of the city’s Department of Community Response, which currently lacks a director. But Chan said staff will give updates in future meetings.
The last regular council meeting of the year is scheduled for Dec. 13.
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