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Supervisors struggle to deal with homelessness

On November 1st the County held a public meeting at the North HIghlands Recreation and Park District to get public input on the proposed use of a large warehouse property at 4837 Watt Avenue for a "Sanctioned Homeless Encampment" AKA a "Safe Stay Community". That's a temporary shelter setting intended to enable unhoused people to have sleeping facilities (tents, tiny home cabins and cars), restrooms, showers, food service and service delivery. Pets will be alowed, litter and strewn-about trash will not be tolerated, and the entire site will be fenced and supervised.

ABC10, one of several media entities that covered the event, posted a summary of the event on its web site. The public was largely apprehensive about the proposal for the $23M site, pointing out the history of North Highlands being used as a dumping ground for land uses and activites not welcomed elsewhere. They worried about impacts on their nearby homes and businesses. But they also seemed to be willing to give the County a chance to get a solution right for a change, perhaps because the County Supervisors displayed an openness to community input and expressed a willingness to empower local residents and businesses concerning operations at the site.

It was kind of remarkable to have 3 County Supervisors (Frost, Serna, and Desmond) there taking questions from the audience along with County staff members.

Most of the time the County has to react to homeless shelter proposals from the City of Sacramento, which tends to want its shelters to be as close to the edges of Sacramento's city limits, i.e. across the street from unincorporated area residents and businesses. The recent Auburn Blvd. Science Center is one such shelter. Unfortunately, as many predicted, it hasn't been as benign as people were told: debris, drug needles, camping and petty vagrancy are on the rise in the immediate area. The push/pull relationship between the County and the City of Sacramento hasn't produced great results. The County blames the City of Sacramento and the City of Sacramento blames the County. Meanwhile, encampments like the one on Roseville Road get worse and worse. (See: Theresa Clift, "Sacramento County has millions in unspent funds for homeless", Sacramento Bee, 10/31/2022).

The North Highlands meeting was different in that 1) the County was proactively tackling the issues (although they said the facility was intended to deal with a target population of Roseville Road campers in the City of Sacramento), 2) the County was realistic about property values/sweeps vs. compassion for unhoused people and 3) the Supervisors who represent the area showed up. Due to the real estate acquisition process and the need for purposeful construction at the site, it will be a while before the facility  can open its doors. In the meantime, people are encouraged to contact the County Office of Homeless Initiatives.