Following the onset of the pandemic, the newly formed Sacramento Homelessness COVID-19 Response Team acted quickly and definitively, securing nearly 600 quarantine/medical isolation units to shelter people experiencing homelessness who have contracted or are most susceptible to the virus.
“The goal was simple: Help as many people as we can and keep the virus from spreading through the homeless community,” said Emily Halcon, homeless services manager for the City of Sacramento.
In those terms, the response team has been largely successful. Since its inception, the team, made up of representatives from the City of Sacramento, the County of Sacramento, Sacramento Steps Forward and the Sacramento Housing and Redevelopment Agency (SHRA), has sheltered more than 1,200 people, with support from the State’s Project Roomkey and other initiatives.
In addition, the team has placed more than 100 portable bathrooms and handwashing stations near encampments to support safe hygiene and prevent transmission while offering outreach and “living support,” such as water and meals. It also has organized testing for encampments and congregate shelters.
Now, the team has launched into a new phase, working to rehouse people who have received temporary shelter and transition them into more permanent solutions.
“We have set the ambitious goal of rapidly moving 500 people into more permanent housing,” Halcon said. “The services we have provided with the temporary shelter — meals, security and connection to basic medical support — have enabled participants to begin to stabilize and look toward their next steps of transitioning out of homelessness.”
Specific rehousing strategies from the team include:
- Connecting participants to existing and expanded rehousing programs: Every day, Sacramento service providers work to connect people to rehousing programs, offering help in paying for and maintaining permanent housing. These programs will play a critical role in rehousing people currently staying in quarantine or isolation units.
- Engaging landlords: The Response Team has been reaching out to rental owners in an effort to create new partnerships, including master-lease opportunities to expand the local housing inventory.
- Expanding other housing stock: State funding, such as Project Homekey, is allowing the City to purchase two motels (one in north Sacramento and one in south Sacramento) that it plans to convert into 210 units of permanent housing for people experiencing homelessness. The City also is investing in small, manufactured homes to create additional housing stock.
“We see this next phase as both a challenge and an opportunity,” Halcon said. “We know that now is a time we can really make a difference in Sacramento.”