The City Council on Nov. 8 unanimously voted to declare a shelter crisis in Sacramento. The declaration helps trigger the release of $20 million from the State of California to address local homelessness.

“Homelessness need not be hopelessness,” Mayor Darrell Steinberg

The following is an FAQ about the declaration and what it means for the city:

What is the City currently doing to address homelessness?

Homelessness is a complex problem that requires a proactive, comprehensive solution. The City Council has made significant investments over the past years to increase services, shelter capacity and housing support for people experiencing homelessness. Despite these efforts, homelessness is on the rise across California, and is affecting communities throughout the City and County.

What does it mean to declare a shelter crisis?

A city or county in California can declare a shelter crisis. It signals that currently a significant number of people in a certain jurisdiction do not have access to shelter, and the situation is causing health and safety issues. The declaration allows a jurisdiction to apply for and receive additional State funding to address the issue.

Why is Sacramento looking to declare one now?

The Sacramento City Council, on Oct. 16, 2018, unanimously voted to move ahead with an application for State funds that would result in nearly $20 million to address local homelessness.

The funds come from the State’s Homeless Emergency Aid Program, or HEAP, and the California Emergency Solution and Housing Program, or CESH. The State programs were created when Gov. Jerry Brown included $533 million in one-time funding in California’s budget to address homelessness.

To be eligible for the HEAP funds, the City is required to declare a shelter crisis.

Who are the City’s partners in this process?

The City spent weeks working collaboratively with Sacramento County and Sacramento Steps Forward – the non-profit agency that coordinates homeless resources in the region – to access the funds. (Sacramento County declared a shelter crisis in October.) The collaboration will allow the partners to better develop a comprehensive, coordinated, countywide response to homelessness.

What happens once the shelter crisis is declared, and the funds are released?

The City, County and SSF have worked together to develop a HEAP/CESH investment proposal, vetting ideas through a wide variety of community stakeholders.

Investment will focus on three areas: expansion of emergency shelter services; creation of a flexible re-housing program; and improvements to the existing homeless system (including its coordinated entry system, which uses technological solutions to match clients to resources and alleviate gaps in service).

What specifically would the City do with its HEAP and CESH funds?

The City is expected to administer more than $7 million of the funding. It plans to expand existing shelter programs, launch a new 200-bed triage shelter modeled after the one operating on Railroad Avenue, and increase youth sheltering options. All shelter expansion will subscribe to “low-barrier” access and be centered on “housing first” principles, meaning the goal is to stabilize clients and then assist them in moving into more permanent housing.

The County will administer $11 million of the funding and will lead efforts to expand family and scattered-site shelters; it also will create and implement a program that identifies and assists people in need of rehousing by providing subsidies and other types of rental assistance. SSF plans to use $1 million of the funding to improve the sharing of information among service providers, both public and private.

What other cities and counties have declared a shelter crisis?

Across California, jurisdictions big and small, urban and rural, have declared a shelter crisis. They include Berkeley, Oakland, Chico, Oroville, Eureka, Long Beach, San Francisco, Lodi and Stockton.

How long will the declaration last?

The effective period of the shelter crisis will begin on Dec. 1 and end on March 1, 2019.

How is the City mitigating the impacts of unsheltered homelessness?

As part of its preparation for the shelter-crisis declaration, the City has identified both existing and new programs that will help with mitigation and has committed more than $2 million toward the effort.

Programs include the Downtown Streets Team, which trains and employs homeless people in neighborhood clean-up crews, and the Sacramento Police Department’s IMPACT team, which helps to connect people experiencing homelessness to service providers and operates seven days a week. The Public Works Encampment Removal Fund also has been earmarked for additional funding.

Can the City’s urban camping ordinance still be enforced after declaring a shelter crisis?

Yes. People may be cited, administratively or criminally, for unlawful camping, when the citing officer:

  • Contemporaneously confirms a shelter bed is available;
  • Confirms that there are no limitations to the person’s initial and continual use of the bed;
  • Offers to transport the person to the location of the available shelter bed and the person rejects the offer; and
  • Finds that there is probable cause for the citation.

Does the City have other enforcement tools?

Yes. The City will continue to enforce civil and criminal laws related to illegal dumping, drinking in public, disorderly conduct, trespassing, the sale of illegal narcotics and other social nuisances.

How many people are homeless in Sacramento?

According to a 2017 Point-in-Time Count for the County of Sacramento, 3,665 people in the County, including approximately 1,779 who are within the City of Sacramento, are homeless. This population includes veterans, women, children, people with disabilities, seniors and other vulnerable groups.