City, County join forces on $15 million plan to prevent the spread of COVID-19 among homeless people

The Sacramento City Council and Sacramento County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday both approved a $15-million joint plan to provide nearly 1,000 beds for homeless people either diagnosed with or at high-risk for contracting COVID-19.

These beds — located in motels, trailers and existing shelters — will allow at-risk or infected homeless people to be cared for in isolation.

The joint plan was developed by the Sacramento Homelessness COVID-19 Response Team task force, which includes the City of Sacramento, County of Sacramento, Sacramento Steps Forward and the Sacramento Housing and Redevelopment Agency (SHRA).

“It’s important to emphasize that this response plan is at its core is a public-health response, and really is informed and led by guidance from the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) as well as state and local directives,” Emily Halcon, the City’s homeless services manager, said to the Council Tuesday during a presentation.

Largely funded by state and federal COVID-19 emergency response funds, the plan includes $1.25 million to improve sanitation in existing homeless camps.

Elements of the plan include:

  • 850 motel rooms
  • 80 beds through expansion of existing shelters
  • 63 new travel trailers at Cal Expo
  • 500 meals delivered to encampments each day
  • 50 hygiene stations placed at encampments, including portable toilets and hand-washing facilities.

Halcon said the County has already placed 37 at-risk individuals and 17 families into motels. The City’s shelter on North Fifth Street was expanded by 20 people this past weekend.

Officials said they don’t know of any people experiencing homelessness having tested positive for COVID-19 as of yet, but encampments are considered vulnerable to rapid spread, and many people living on the streets are older and have underlying medical conditions.

There is no walk-up admission to the trailers at Cal Expo or the hotels or motels that the County will be leasing. Referrals will be handled by shelter, outreach and health partners, who will prioritize people based on their potential exposure to the virus and risk factors.

The Sacramento Police Department continues to respond to calls for service from the public regarding homelessness, including calls about excess property and encampments. SPD will take CDC guidelines into consideration and evaluate if the situation poses a significant public safety hazard. Officers will help to educate the unsheltered community on preventing the spread of COVID-19 as well as services available to them. For more details regarding SPD’s response regarding homelessness, please click here.