Sacramento officials approve measure that would create thousands of shelter spaces

KCRA | April 7, 2022

A measure that would create thousands of emergency shelter beds for unhoused individuals could show up on the November ballot for residents in Sacramento.

City council members on Wednesday night debated for hours before passing the ordinance related to the Emergency Shelter and Enforcement Act of 2022 that replaces an original initiative that officials argue would cost the city far too much and drain them of funding for core programs.

The original proposal would authorize emergency shelter space for 75% of the homeless population based on the county’s latest census within 60 days of voter approval. City officials estimate that would mean about 7,500 shelter spaces would need to be available to meet that percentage. Currently, the city maintains 1,100 and would need 6,400 more spaces, and it is being questioned if creating that many spaces within the 60-day timeframe is physically possible.

Another concern is cost. The city spends about $33 million annually to fund the existing 1,100 spaces, and it estimates it would need an additional $192 million to be able to maintain 75% housing for individuals. Officials are concerned that spending that much money would exhaust their funding for other services.

What passed instead of this measure calls for maintaining shelter spaces that would house 60% of the homeless population based on the county’s latest census within 90 days of voter approval, essentially an extra month’s time to create those spaces. And instead of 7,500 spaces, it would be about 4,900.

What’s unclear now is the cost for the beds under the alternative proposal. It calls for using external funding from sources such as county, state and federal governments, and if that’s not enough to foot the bill, the city manager would allocate up to $5 million from “unobligated General Fund year-end resources.”

Once the city has enough spaces to meet that requirement, it would be allowed to clear illegal homeless camps from public property if a person rejects an offer for housing.

Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg said finding shelter for individuals experiencing homelessness is critical.

“One has to judge whether or not a measure of this import will actually improve the quality of life in our city and improved the possibilities that more people that are unsheltered an homeless and forgotten will get the help they need that they are currently not getting,” Steinberg said. “And my conclusion is that on balance the answer is yes.”

With the motion passed, the city clerk is now to return to city council on April 19 before officially submitting the ordinance so it can show up on the Nov. 8 election.

View Original Publication: KCRA