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Sacramento Wants To Turn A Low-Income Downtown Hotel Into A Homeless Shelter

Bob Moffitt / Capital Public Radio

A homeless tent site on the American River Parkway.

Bob Moffitt / Capital Public Radio

A hotel in downtown Sacramento could be turned into a temporary homeless shelter by the end of the year.

The 90 residents at the Capitol Park Hotel would be forced to move.

The hotel, at L and Ninth streets, is currently a single-room occupancy dwelling where residents pay around $500 for a room and a shared bathroom. Under a proposal set to go in front of City Council this Tuesday, it would be converted into a temporary homeless triage shelter, and then later would have its 180 rooms remodeled into 134 permanent supportive-housing units.

Mayor Darrell Steinberg has tasked each council member to identify a location for a homeless shelter in their district, but Councilman Steve Hansen, whose district includes Midtown and downtown, said doing so wasn’t easy — until he learned about the hotel.

“We looked at several locations for potential sprung shelters or buildings that could be acquired,” Hansen said. “Ultimately, a lot of those sites weren't up for sale, or didn't have the infrastructure we needed ... and it became a challenge to find the perfect site.”

Hansen says that when affordable-housing nonprofit Mercy Housing announced it was buying the Capitol Park Hotel, he saw a window of opportunity to transition it into a shelter and, after, a low-income housing hotel with larger rooms and a kitchen.

A hotel resident who identified himself only as Bart says he's seen this type of situation before: He lived at the nearby Hotel Berry and was moved out of that building, too, when it was remodeled.

"I was shown five different apartments, either in Citrus Heights or West Sacramento,” recalled Bart, who says he pays $575 at the Capitol Park Hotel. “I live in downtown because I want to live in downtown. I've been in this building for 11 years now."

Irene Henry, who currently owns Capitol Park Hotel and once owned the nearby Royal Hotel, confirmed that she is in contract with Mercy Housing to sell. At first, she thought the hotel, plus the cafe and the corner store on its ground floor, which she also owns, would have until next year to vacate the property. But now she thinks they might be forced to move out within months.

"We didn’t put the hotel up for sale. Mercy Housing approached us. I’m getting up in age, and we decided, ‘OK, we’re going to go ahead and do this,’ with a clean, clear contract with Mercy Housing and all of a sudden the city gets involved and it's like turmoil right now,” she said.

Henry says she feels the city is targeting her properties. “We had the Marshall Hotel. The city worked against us. We had the Royal Hotel. The city worked against us. Now, this,” she said.

George Green lives in her hotel and says he's open to the idea of moving — depending on the new location.

He says he wants to be near “transportation, shopping areas where you can to stores conveniently, because when you're older you've got to do those things.”

“It's not like when you were younger — ‘Well, I'll get on my bike and ride down the street or run down to the corner’ — it's not like that when you get to our age,” Green added.

La Shelle Dozier with the Sacramento Housing and Redevelopment Agency says Mercy Housing has a relocation unit that can help people like Green. "A consultant will sit down with each hotel resident and will work to find a place they can afford in a place they like,” she said.

City Council will vote on whether to lend Mercy Housing $13 million to buy the building, with a guarantee the money would be paid back from a mix of state mental health funding and tax credits.

The city would operate the shelter for 18 months, in addition to a shelter at Cal Expo’s parking lot, for two years. It will use $16 million in Measure U sales tax revenue to pay for operations.

Steinberg supports the program, which he says would get the city closer to his goal of 800 temporary, triage shelter beds for homeless people. He applauded city council members for working to meet his goal of at least one such shelter in each council district.

"If I had the magic wand, I would build it all in one day,” Steinberg said. “That's not the way that it works. But we, my colleagues, are taking the challenge seriously, and they're coming forward with ideas that are workable, and we're building up to that number of beds that I think will be necessary."

The hotel would bring number of sites in the city identified as triage shelters to three, joining the Cal Expo site and another near Alhambra Boulevard and W Street. An announcement about an additional South Sacramento location is expected in the coming weeks.

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