SACRAMENTO – As the City works to adopt a homeless housing master plan, Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg announced last week that early steps to provide shelter quickly to scores of people sleeping outdoors and rental assistance to thousands more at risk of becoming homeless.

This week, a proposed “Safe Ground” ordinance allowing sanctioned tent or tiny home encampments on public or privately owned land was approved by the Sacramento City Council.

As part of the vote, Mayor Steinberg asked the Council to direct staff to place 60 tiny homes on public or privately owned sites within 30 days. Readily available tiny homes and cabins, some originally developed for disaster relief, can be deployed and assembled within days or even minutes.
Mayor Steinberg did not specify the sites. That will be up to City Councilmembers working with the City Manager’s Office. The City already has an inventory of eight Pallet homes ready for installation when the first site is found.

“The only way we can make a difference in the number of people experiencing homelessness is to provide housing options on a mass scale in locations throughout the city, and that’s what the master plan will accomplish,” Mayor Steinberg said. “We also know that people are suffering now, and we have to do what we can in the moment to help alleviate that suffering and the impact of unsheltered homelessness on our neighborhoods and businesses.”

Two weeks ago, the City Council officially declared reducing homelessness a top priority and launched the process for developing a city-wide master plan for siting, financing, and operating sheltering solutions to bring thousands of people indoors.

The Council unanimously approved restarting the issuance of a $100-million bond to build affordable housing and permanent supportive housing in the city.

City staff has also produced a map showing 1,798 potential sites around the city that are more than 500 feet away from a residence or sensitive use.
Newly elected City Councilwoman Katie Valenzuela said she’s confident that tiny homes can be deployed in District 4, which includes downtown and midtown.

“The District 4 community has been working hard to identify appropriate sites and mitigation strategies for short-term shelter solutions, and would enthusiastically welcome the placement of tiny homes or cabins in our community,” Valenzuela said. “With so many people sleeping on the street in the rainy and cold weather, we cannot wait any longer to move people indoors. These tiny homes are not a permanent solution, but could provide critical relief to a community in desperate need. I fully support deploying them as soon as we can.”

Councilmember Jay Schenirer, who represents District 5, has sought to find a site for a large Navigation Center in D-5. The Alhambra and Broadway near the W-X freeway in Oak Park has been approved.

Last week at Alhambra and W Street, the city removed a large encampment occupied unhoused person. The camp had been there since March 2020 when COVID-19 virus shut down the state.

In addition, Steinberg announced that the City of Sacramento would receive $15.3 million from the newly passed federal stimulus package for additional rental assistance for families at risk of becoming homeless.

The money is expected to arrive by Jan. 26 and will be administered by the Sacramento Housing and Redevelopment Agency, which earlier this year distributed $4.7 million in federal funds allocated by the City Council.
Mayor Steinberg thanked U.S. Reps Doris Matsui, D-Sacramento, and Ami Bera for their support of the measure.

“For months, we have asked Sacramentans to stay at home as much as possible – because we know that home is the safest place one can be in a pandemic,” said Congresswoman Matsui. “However, as many in our region face an uncertain path forward from this crisis, it has become increasingly difficult to pay rent and ensure that they can stay housed.”

Over the next few months, staff members will work with City Council offices to hold a series of workshops on siting, financing, and other aspects of a master plan for housing thousands of people experiencing homelessness on sites throughout the city. The plan will go to the Council for an up or down vote in June.

By Antonio R. Harvey | OBSERVER Staff Writer