Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg announced Monday a proposal to put millions of dollars from federal COVID-19 and state funding into creating permanent housing for about 1,100 homeless people who are currently in temporary housing provided by the state.
The $62.6 million plan includes extending motel leases for some currently housed in motels under the state’s Project Roomkey initiative, building tiny homes and eviction protection measures for low-income renters.
“If all we did was focus on the COVID impact on homelessness and on Project Roomkey, that might be a good start,” Steinberg said. “But we know that Project Roomkey, as big as it is, is not enough, because COVID has made the homeless problem even worse.”
The majority of the $62.6 million will go towards providing permanent housing for the 1,100 people currently living in motels. The city will also be looking at purchasing two motels for permanent housing, creating a meth sobering center and using funds to build about 30 one- and two-bedroom homes.
“We have decided as a city that we must and we will tackle it on all fronts, including this parallel methamphetamine addiction that afflicts so many,” Steinberg said.
Additionally, $5 million will go to a rental assistance program run by the Sacramento Housing and Redevelopment Agency to help low-income residents who are behind on rent avoid eviction.
“We know that there are many people out there who did not make or are in jeopardy of not making that last rental payment,” said Executive Director La Shelle Dozier. “We cannot allow people to end up in the situation of homelessness, because they don’t have the resources to pay their rent.”
According to Sacramento County’s most recent Point in Time Homelessness Count, there were 5,570 homeless people in 2019. Advocates also worry this number will increase for 2020 as a result of job loss and evictions due to COVID-19.
“It’s a very small fraction of the homeless population,” Faye Wilson Kennedy of the Sacramento Poor People’s Campaign said of the population that’s currently temporarily housed. She said her organization, which goes out to help the homeless twice a week, has noticed an uptick in people living on the streets and in their cars, as well as an increase in the number of families who are unhoused.
“We’re seeing more folks with more children. Before COVID, we saw maybe one or two families,” she said. “Now any given day, we see at least two to three families with young children, generally living in cars or living in their van.”
Kennedy said overall it was good that the city was allocating money towards homeless prevention, because she anticipated the number of unhoused people to jump again in September when evictions are allowed again.But she hoped the city could allocate closer to $10 million for renter’s assistance rather than the proposed $5 million.
“If the average rent in Sacramento is $1,100, you can see how if you’re going to help those 5,000 unhoused people get into temporary or permanent housing you can see the magnitude in terms of the money you need to do that,” she said.
Steinberg says the $62 million proposal is just a start for addressing the homelessness situation in Sacramento. The city council will be discussing and voting on his plan this Tuesday.
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