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Davis, California

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Sacramento issues new ordinance increasing shelter options for individuals experiencing homelessness

The pandemic has posed challenges for providing shelter safely, leading some shelters to reduce vacancy

On Jan. 19, the Sacramento City Council “adopted an emergency ordinance that significantly expands sheltering options for people experiencing homelessness,” according to a media release from the Sacramento City Express.

The ordinance permits the City of Sacramento to approve the “establishment of privately-run temporary shelter facilities” and rapidly provide permits for parking lots, tiny home communities and tent encampments that are “safe ground.”

Any temporary shelter that is established has a limit of 80 beds, and the ordinance will be considered active for the duration of time that the City of Sacramento is “operating under a declared shelter crisis,” according to the statement.

More information regarding the ordinance and its requirements can be found in the statement. 

Media and Communications Manager for the City of Sacramento Tim Swanson described via email the sheltering options currently available in Sacramento.

“The City of Sacramento, in partnership with the Sacramento Housing and Redevelopment Agency (SHRA), funds and operates homeless shelters, scattered site shelters, tiny home communities, overnight warming centers and ‘safe parking’ areas to help people who are experiencing homelessness,” Swanson said. 

Swanson explained that the new ordinance “followed an action by the Sacramento City Council that updated land use policy in the city and streamlined the administration process to allow staff to quickly issue permits for privately operated ‘safe-ground’ tent encampments, parking lots and tiny home communities.”

Another option for those seeking shelter in Yolo County is Empower Yolo, according to Executive Director of Empower Yolo Lynette Irlmeier. 

“Empower Yolo has a 35 bed shelter for victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking and trafficking and a smaller 8 bed shelter for homeless victims of crime,” Irlmeier said via email. “We also have a rapid rehousing program for people who are homeless and need financial assistance to get into permanent housing.”

Other options for those seeking shelter in Sacramento include temporary shelters, safe parking, warming shelters, Transitional Housing with Supportive Services such as Saint John’s Program for Real Change, hotel or motel vouchers, tiny homes and Project RoomKey or Project HomeKey, according to the Office of Mayor’s Senior Policy Advisor Julia Burrows.

“People seeking shelters may call 2-1-1 to start the intake process,” Burrows said via email. “They may also contact local outreach navigators who work with community based organizations directly in camps.”

Another option is utilizing Davis Community Meals and Housing, which will be increasing its sheltering options for families and individuals in the coming weeks, especially those who may be at a higher risk for COVID-19. However, the pandemic has made it difficult to run a shelter, according to Davis Community Meals and Housing Executive Director Bill Pride.

“Due to safety issues, we had to reduce our capacity to 2 individuals per room,” Pride said via email. “It has also brought up many issues that were difficult to enforce: mask wearing, sanitizing and cleaning on a regular basis.”

Although housing opportunities are currently limited, Pride encouraged those who are homeless to find housing or shelter in order to lower the chances of being infected or exposed to the virus. 

Irlmeier expressed similar difficulties about running Empower Yolo.

“Running a shelter during a pandemic has been a challenge: we had to reduce the number of people we could accept in the shelter to allow for social distancing,” Irlmeier said. “We no longer have single clients sharing rooms so it cut our capacity in half. Of course, we had to increase cleaning protocols and offer PPE for everyone.”

The city of Sacramento received resources from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES) to provide more emergency housing, according to Burrows.

“The City received significant resources from the federal CARES Act because it is a city of over 500,000 people,” Burrows said. “$20 million of the $89 million received was spent on emergency housing. However, the numbers of people losing their housing has increased and so even with additional spending to provide emergency shelter, the numbers of homeless have increased in Sacramento.”

The City of Sacramento has also followed various actions under the direction of city of Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg, such as creating a Master Plan, according to Burrows. There are also meetings that the public can participate in.

 Written by: Shraddha Jhingan — city@theaggie.org

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