Tiny homes dropped in favor of new safe camping and permanent housing solutions
Sacramento, Calif. - by Robert J Hansen
Councilmember Katie Valenzuela in collaboration with Mayor Darrell Steinberg announced major updates today to the Master Siting Plan to Address Homelessness in District 4, two days after a marathon meeting regarding homelessness on Tuesday.
Valenzuela is adding a new safe camping location that will open in her district in January 2022, a new proposed site for permanent housing, and dropping the previously proposed tiny home village proposal under Highway 50 according to a press release.
“Our office has been working hard with community stakeholders to implement the siting plan in District 4,” Valenzuela said in the statement. “These updates today are exciting new opportunities, none of which were included in the Tier 1 list approved by Council in August 2021 and are a representation of the meaningful partnership the City is building with stakeholders to partner on solving this community crisis.”
The new Safe Ground site opening soon in District 4 will have enough capacity to take in many of the people who are now camping nearby the current WX site, connecting them with services and helping them find shelter or permanent housing.
This new site will be able to accommodate 60 tents.
The specific location of the safe camping site is not yet being announced to ensure an orderly outreach and intake process. Priority populations for the new site will be encampments along the Sacramento River levee, people residing outside of the W/X Safe Ground, and other encampments in the downtown area.
The announcement comes as the City continues to work with the County and other community partners to implement the Comprehensive Siting Plan.
The City is incorporating lessons learned from the WX Safe Ground organized camping site, which will be phased down over the next few weeks as all current residents are relocated into shelter or housing according to the statement.
The phase-down of the WX site, initially planned to coincide with the completion of highway construction, is proceeding even though Caltrans now says its project will last until spring 2022.
“I want to thank Councilmember Katie Valenzuela for working so diligently to find sites in District 4 where we can offer the services, safe spaces, and permanent housing needed to alleviate Sacramento’s crisis of unsheltered homelessness,” Mayor Steinberg said. “Replicating such facilities city-wide is the only viable path for us to reduce the numbers of people suffering on our streets and alleviate the distress felt by business owners and residents.”
This update also includes a new proposal to potentially redevelop the YMCA property on W and 21st streets to house homeless families.
If pursued by the YMCA, the project would include a new YMCA facility and childcare center, and several stories of new affordable housing for families currently experiencing homelessness.
The discussion about this project is in very early stages and has not been finalized at this time.
Valenzuela will partner with the YMCA team to conduct community outreach about the proposed housing project, with the hope of partnering with them to provide much-needed permanent supportive housing for families.
“This important community issue takes many partners to address, and we are eager to be part of the solution,” Sharna Braucks, President & CEO, YMCA of Superior California said.
Braucks said the YMCA and city partnering to address a critical community need of today by providing homes for families experiencing housing insecurity extends the Y's mission, programs, and legacy of service YMCA has provided in Sacramento since 1866.
According to the press release, the addition of permanent housing is a better alternative than the original tiny home proposal and will offer similar, if not more capacity.
Councilmember Valenzuela will be dropping that proposal in hope that City support will focus on the new housing proposal brought forward by the YMCA.
In addition to these new sites, the Sierra Health Foundation (SHF) has finalized its plan to open a previously announced Safe Ground site behind its facility on Garden Hwy.
SHF has been working closely with the Department of Community Response (DCR), Mayor Steinberg, Councilmember Valenzuela, and County Supervisor Phil Serna to conduct community outreach with nearby neighbors and businesses as well as the people living nearby on Bannon Island, whom the SHF site is intended to house.
Bannon Island is currently home to approximately 60 people, most of whom are elderly and in need of medical treatment.
The site at SHF would provide them with medical attention, along with reliable shelter, access to bathrooms and showers, food, drinking water, and around-the-clock staff to assist with daily maintenance and wrap-around services.
“Working in concert, the city, county, and Sierra Health Foundation continue to do what we know is right for our unhoused constituents, as well as for the surrounding community and our natural riparian habitat” Supervisor Phil Serna said in the press release. “The latest collaboration to offer carefully managed, temporary habitation space along with services on a small portion of Sierra Health Foundation’s campus is proof positive of our commitment.”
The Department of Community Response (DCR) is beginning implementation to accept guests starting in January 2022.
“The Safe Ground concept is not a long-term solution, but we need these low-barrier sites that can offer people experiencing homelessness necessities and a safer, more secure place to stay while we also marshal the resources they need to transition into more stable housing,” Bridgette Dean, Director of DCR said.
Sierra Health Foundation president and CEO, Chet Hewitt, said the foundation is proud to be participating in a public-private partnership responding to the lack of affordable and supportive housing in Sacramento.
“As a private landowner interested in improving health in our region and beyond, we understand that a path toward improved health for the unhoused starts with access to safe and dignified living environments while waiting to secure permanent housing,” Hewitt said.
All three sites mentioned are new additions to the sites approved by the City Council in August 2021. Other sites in District 4 and other locations across the City are in various stages of active staff vetting, acquisition, or development.