OPINION – The Sacramento Services Not Sweeps Coalition (SSNS) [a coalition of over 100 organizations and advocates] is appalled at the decision — communicated to us on November 13, 2020 by Cindy Cavanaugh, Sacramento County Director of Homeless Initiatives — that “no jurisdictions currently have plans to open warming centers” for our unhoused neighbors.

The Coalition feels it is inhumane to continue to operate what we feel is an antiquated 2012 cold weather activation standard: “extreme cold/freeze warnings or wind chill warnings indicating weather conditions that endanger human life with credible weather forecasts of extremely cold/freezing weather for more than three days (low daytime temps) accompanied by night temps of 32°F or less.”

As you know we are living and witnessing extraordinary times. Sacramento’s Black community is greatly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and homeless crisis. In Sacramento 1 in 5 people are currently living in poverty. Homelessness is a systemic problem for our city, county and the Black Community. Nearly 30-40 percent of the unhoused in Sacramento are Black folks living in vehicles, encampments and alley-ways without any heath during the winter months, blankets, warm clothing, many without access bathrooms, clean drinking water or food.

We fear that the confluence of the various forces will lead to increased sickness and deaths of our unhoused neighbors:
• COVID – 19 pandemic combined with the flu season
• hotels closing -leading to more homeless people on the streets
• predictions of a very cold and wet winter

The Coalition feels it is unconscionable in these extremely difficult times that the county is telling our unhoused neighbors that literally “there is no room at the inn.”

Therefore, we demand that Sacramento County open- up warming centers NOW regardless of the 2012 activation “standard.” Put simply, from December 1 – March 31 the county opens warming centers from 6 pm- 9 am.
This is a matter of life and death!!! We stand in solidarity with our unhoused neighbors.

By Faye Wilson Kennedy and Bob Erlenbusch

Faye Wilson Kennedy, Sacramento Services Not Sweeps Coalition and Sacramento Area Black Caucus (SABC) and Bob Erlenbusch, Sacramento Regional Coalition to End Homelessness [SRCEH] and Sacramento Services Not Sweeps Coalition.