The Sacramento County Board of Supervisors voted yesterday to declare a shelter crisis in Sacramento County as an important step towards implementing the Board’s directions to open and operate sanctioned encampments (called “Safe Stay Communities”).
While adoption of the proposed declaration will allow staff to move with expediency on site selection and development for proposed Safe Stay Communities and most sites will not require additional legal review by the Board, staff will bring all sites to the Board for input on site appropriateness before initiating construction.
In addition, staff will work with the Supervisor in whose district the site(s) are located in to develop a community engagement plan for each site.
In the FY 21/22 County Budget, the Board directed staff to pursue non-traditional options for providing sheltering, including use of sleeping cabins, creation of safe parking opportunities, and use of other shelter options. The benefits of such options include:
- They offer non-congregate sheltering, which is not only more private for the occupants but is easier to prevent the spread of disease, including COVID-19.
- They allow for sheltering of diverse populations as they present, including couples and those with pets.
- They are quicker and less expensive to build than traditionally built facilities.
- They are less permanent than traditionally built facilities, allowing a short-term solution in one community and relocation/re-use of the facilities at other sites as needed.
Staff is working on development of construction and operational plans for multiple potential sites for Safe Stay Communities that could consist of temporary sleeping cabins, safe parking spaces or other emergency facilities. Each community will include on-site security, sanitation services and supportive services aimed at transitioning people out of unsheltered homelessness.
Additionally, the County is continuing to enhance the breadth and depth of outreach and services offered in encampments throughout the County, including the development of Encampment Services Teams that reach out directly to people living unsheltered. These Teams will also serve as outreach points to bring unsheltered into the safe stay communities and provide them with deeper connections to County behavioral health services, connection to benefits like CalFresh, CalWORKs, Medi-Cal, etc., linkages to longer-term shelters, and flexible funding to help support individuals’ transition into permanent housing.
Ultimately, all sites should be considered as a stepping stone to stabilize and support individuals on a pathway to permanent housing.
While stable and affordable housing with appropriate services and support are ultimately what ends homelessness, safe stay communities afford the opportunity to provide immediate safe and hygienic locations for people experiencing homelessness to live and access services. They also provide a consistent location for service providers and outreach workers to engage on a more regular basis with occupants.
Additionally, by targeting those living unsheltered in the immediate vicinity of the communities, it is anticipated that the communities will create broader community benefits including a reduction in trash and debris, the mitigation of environmental and health hazards, and the ability to restore land previously occupied by unsanctioned encampments to its intended use.
Read more about the County’s response to homelessness on our website.