Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Sacramento council OKs $1 million for homeless beds

Sacramento council OKs $1 million for homeless beds

By Loretta Kalb
Published: Wednesday, Mar. 25, 2009 - 12:00 am | Page 1B

The Sacramento City Council on Tuesday approved a $1 million program to provide another 150 beds to handle the city's growing homeless population.

As a result, the tent city encampment near the American River Parkway in Sacramento could be phased out by the end of next month, officials said.

"I can't see this going on beyond the end of April," Mayor Kevin Johnson said before the meeting.

The plan to deal with the housing emergency calls for combined allocations of $880,000 in city and redevelopment agency funds for both immediate and longer term shelter.

The money could be supplemented by $150,000 from Sacramento County if the Board of Supervisors agrees next month to kick in that amount.

The program means that another 50 beds will be added to the winter overflow facility at Cal Expo, boosting the total to 204 until July 1.

Additional beds will be available through the end of the year at St. John's Shelter for women and children and the street shelter Aid in Kind.

And 64 individuals and families will be able to find housing through supportive resources such as Keys to Hope programs, and Faith and Homeless Families Initiative by using rental subsidies and housing assistance.

Storage lockers also will be provided for storing personal property, and kennel services will be available for a limited number of pets.

Homeless advocates said that while the plan is a positive response, it doesn't address all the needs for a homeless population estimated at 1,200.

The issue deserves some in-depth analysis, Councilwoman Sandy Sheedy said.

"I want a comprehensive study done on chronic homelessness vs. new homelessness," Sheedy said.

She said she would like information on how the problems have been affected by the recession, and how there could be greater regional participation.

"I am very upset that we have done this all by ourselves," she said. "All we are doing is playing a chess game. Eventually, we are going to get to checkmate."

The tent city camp in Sacramento gained national and international media exposure when Oprah Winfrey featured it on her television show.

One area, Dreher Street, has been hard hit because it is a direct route to Loaves & Fishes, which offers meals and social services to homeless people.

Businesses have been affected, too.

"It's disappointing that Sacramento has allowed itself to be made a national spectacle for a problem that has gone on for years," said Bruce Booher of Booher Construction on North C Street. He said the effort to resolve the homeless problem "has to be ongoing."

Even with a long-term program, however, it will be difficult to find shelter for every homeless person.

Some won't want to be housed, said Ed Harris of the Sacramento Homeless Organizing Committee.

Harris urged a "safe ground," a tent city where residents who choose to do so can remain outside.

Harris said he did not want those individuals to be viewed as lawbreakers.

In other action:

• The council authorized staff to issue a request for proposals to study options for opening the K Street Mall to vehicular traffic and light rail.

The council in October determined that a pilot program to return vehicle traffic to the mall would be feasible and could stimulate additional private investment in the area. The mall was closed to cars in 1969.

Leslie Fritzsche, downtown development manager, has said that a four-month study likely would cost between $100,000 and $150,000, and a program could be put into place within a year.

• The council also approved a formula for adjusting fees to better reflect the costs of providing city services.

That means fees for many city services such as advanced life support transportation or a permit for a funeral escort will generate about $1 million a year in additional revenue, said Leyne Milstein, city finance director.

The increases will save general fund dollars and reduce needed cuts in city departments, she said. Most will take effect in the next 30 to 60 days.

Call The Bee's Loretta Kalb, (916) 321-1073.

Comment: This is good news, but it is still a drop in the bucket in terms of the basic needs of homeless people. When we are working with the homeless there is a whole array of social services and mental-spiritual health issues that need to be analyzed, addressed and resolved. A lot of the work involves teaching basic life skills (job search and interviewing techniques; money management; parenting courses; drug addiction prevention and counter-relapses strategies; raising self-esteem; social and communication skills etc. etc.). It ultimately involves character building, developing personal self-esteem and raising a new spiritual consciousness.. These ways are useful and profitable for all people seeking to be functional in today's high-tech society. The homeless suffer from character defects and shortcomings the same as many in society do, but these 'issues' are just more obvious because of their public visibility. We need to develop comprehensive and compassionate programs that address all these critical and relevant issues.

Education for Liberation! Join Up!
Peter S. Lopez aka: Peta

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