Permanent supportive housing. Triage centers. Navigation centers. Safe camping. Safe parking. Motel conversions.
These are some of the key strategies the City of Sacramento is utilizing to address homelessness via its Homeless Master Plan.
The City Council on Tuesday shared district-specific updates on the master plan, including potential sites for operationalizing these strategies. The Council also discussed guiding principles for the plan as well as “good neighbor” policies that will ensure that future shelter operations successfully cohere with their respective communities.
“The master plan is intended to designate sites – and really pre-approve sites – as much as we can to create thousands of roofs, beds and spaces for people,” Mayor Darrell Steinberg said.
Steinberg emphasized the need to create enough shelter space so the City could effectively operate under the Martin vs. The City of Boise ruling, which states that it is unconstitutional to punish people for sleeping in public places when there aren’t enough shelter beds or housing available as an alternative.
“I think it’s really important that we link the Martin vs. Boise case and the desire to regulate … the time, place and manner in which people can camp,” Steinberg said. “The only way we can do that is if we create enough capacity to be able to offer someone who is camping where we don’t want them to camp a safe place where they can camp or hopefully a place where they can have a roof over their heads.”
Following Steinberg’s comments, Council members provided updates on the community meetings they have been holding in their districts. Council member Katie Valenzuela, who has been leading work to help campers displaced by construction on the W/X freeway, said she had identified potential locations in her district to accommodate up to 2,000 people in tiny homes, triage centers and safe camping.
Council member Jeff Harris said his community meetings had been useful to not only inform the public of what the City is working to accomplish, but what the City already had accomplished as well.
“It was enlightening, I would say, for all of my constituents to understand that we have, for instance, housed 2,700 people last year,” Harris said. “That’s an astounding number and quite a tremendous win. But I worked hard to point out that this is a numbers game. Because of COVID, more people fell into homelessness than we could address.”
The Council will review specific sites in each district at workshop meetings scheduled for April 13-May 4. The final vote for the master plan likely will occur in June.
New Navigation Center
Also on Tuesday, members of the City Council unanimously approved spending $6.9 million to operate a new Navigation Center at 29th and X streets for the next two years.
The bulk of the money, $5 million, is a grant from the Kaiser Foundation that was donated at the request of Mayor Darrell Steinberg. The rest is a combination of state funds and $1.13 million from Measure U.
The Navigation Center is under construction and is scheduled to open this summer under the oversight of the Sacramento Housing and Redevelopment Agency. It will house up to 100 people at a time, depending on COVID restrictions, with priority given to those experiencing homelessness in Oak Park, Curtis Park and on the Broadway/Alhambra corridor.
Navigation Centers offer living skills classes, recovery assistance, medical care, financial counseling, help retrieving key documents and housing placement services to help people transition from homelessness into permanent housing within four to six months. People are accepted as they are, with their pets, partners and possessions. The X Street Navigation Center will be open to adults by referral — it will not take walk ups.
Like the City’s Meadowview Navigation Center, the X Street Navigation Center will have round-the-clock security and will adopt a robust good neighbor policy to provide relief to the surrounding neighborhood, which has been heavily affected by homeless encampments.
“We have been holding community meetings on this site for a little over two years,” said Vice Mayor Jay Schenirer, who represents the district where the center is being built. “We really want to do something a little different with this Navigation Center where it is really owned by the community. There are so many community-based organizations within walking distance of this site that can really participate in the life of the Navigation Center.”