OAK PARK – In the summer of 2019, the Sacramento City Council approved to provide new homeless shelters in the neighborhood of Meadowview and on the western edge of Oak Park under the W/X freeway near Broadway and Alhambra Boulevard.

The action helped raise the number of sleeping beds to 600 for the city’s unhoused as a part of the deal.

The facility on Meadowview Road (a 100-bed shelter for women and children) is functioning and the area under the W/X freeway is now under construction after a presumed fight between the city and the federal government.

The W/X freeway facility is expected to accommodate 100 beds, too.

Last month, the council approved an emergency ordinance that allows the City to issue permits for temporary tent encampments, safe parking lots, and communities of tiny homes, trailers or sleeping cabins to house people experiencing homelessness.

The size of such an encampment will be capped at 80 beds.

The COVID-19 pandemic has put a lot of pressure on municipalities in the state of California and the city and county of Sacramento are not immune to the growing issue.

Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg, whose home was the target of vandals that put the homelessness problem on his shoulders, admitted the city is moving at a snail pace but more can be done and more help is on the way.

“The City needs to be more nimble,” Steinberg stated in January. “We have not implemented nearly fast enough the solutions that we all know would bring relief to hundreds and thousands experiencing homelessness, and also bring relief to our businesses and residents at the same time.”

Last May, California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced that the state had become the first in the nation to secure Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) approval to provide safe isolation capacity for tens of thousands of people experiencing homelessness in California.

The action will protect individuals and families in the state from COVID-19. Almost 129,000 people in the state of California experienced homelessness in 2019. Nearly half of that figure are African Americans.

The state’s effort, “Project Roomkey,” secured up to 15,000 rooms for individuals most vulnerable to COVID-19. In November, Newsom directed $62 million in one-time funds from the State’s Disaster Response Emergency Operations Account to counties around the state to continue providing housing to current Project Roomkey participants.

Newsom said Project Roomkey had exceeded the expectations of rooms and beds for the unhoused. Project Roomkey, the Newsom administration touted, has included more than 16,000 hotel and motel rooms in 55 counties and three tribal nation areas since it began in April 2020.

“Project Roomkey exceeded all expectations, providing safe shelter to more than 22,300 Californians experiencing homelessness,” Gov. Newsom said. “But this pandemic is very much still with us — and we can’t take our eye off the ball. That’s why we’re supporting our counties with this new money, so they can continue this critical life-saving Roomkey mission and help clients transition into more stable, permanent housing. At the end of the day, our top objective for this new funding is keeping everyone — including people experiencing homelessness — safe from COVID-19.”

Here in Sacramento, Project Roomkey has been getting bad reviews by the people it should be serving, some unhoused individuals and homelessness advocates have preached for nearly a year.

Donta Williams, a homeless advocate who was residing at an encampment on Stockton Boulevard said getting vouchers from the program is more time wasted than it is trying to obtain them for shelter.

“It’s not that easy as some people think it is. It’s a lot of work for people with limited resources,” Williams told The OBSERVER.

By Antonio R. Harvey | OBSERVER Staff Writer