Sacramento opens new temporary shelter for homeless residents on Auburn Boulevard

Starting this week, homeless people in Sacramento will have a new option to connect with services and temporary shelter.

The city plans to open its full-time outreach and engagement center Thursday at 3615 Auburn Boulevard in northeast Sacramento. The facility, located in the city’s former Powerhouse Science Center and Museum, was used earlier this year as a respite shelter from the elements, opening for 10 days this month. record heat wave.

It will not operate as a walk-in center and it will not be for long term stays. Instead, outreach teams will refer people there and guests will stay for three or four days, not weeks or months, city officials said.

“This is a full service center that will allow up to 50 people at a time to not only get off the streets and get daily and nightly respite,” said Mayor Darrell Steinberg, “but more importantly, or equally important, to get the services, the navigation, the help they need to end their homelessness.

The shelter includes a computer center where staff can help clients access documents needed for medical and other benefits, a dining hall, restrooms, showers, separate dormitories for men and women, and areas for storage for guests’ belongings and a kennel for their pets.

Coloring books are available to soothe guests at the new unhoused respite center in Sacramento, Calif., Tuesday, September 27, 2022.Andrew Nixon / CapRadio

Steinberg acknowledged that the center is just one step in solving Sacramento’s homelessness crisis. “We need about 10 more of these facilities across the city and county,” he added.

A survey published in June counted nearly 9,300 homeless countywide, a 67% increase since 2019.

In recent months, city and county elected officials have plans approved for some new shelters and small house communities. But they also passed several new enforcement measures, amid growing calls from the public and businesses to remove homeless encampments from the area.

In August, the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved of them prescriptions that will ban homeless encampments along the American River Parkway near schools, libraries and other areas that supervisors consider “critical infrastructure.” Also last month, the The city council voted to increase the penalty for block Sacramento sidewalks or building entrances from offense to misdemeanor, a move that targets homeless camps.

Steinberg has generally supported the measures but issued a warning about them this week.

“Until we make a commitment to give people a place and a way out of homelessness, until we make that commitment, none of these enforcement efforts are really going to bring relief to the community that the community rightly expects,” he said.

Erin Johansen, chief executive of Hope Cooperative, the nonprofit that will operate the Auburn Boulevard shelter, said nonprofit staff will assist clients and monitor the center around the clock to ensure that he remains safe. Homeless residents often reject offers of accommodation due to security concerns.

Johansen added that staff at the center are trained in de-escalation and additional security will be on site.

She said the center would not provide treatment for addiction or mental health, although staff then assess and connect clients to outside treatment services. Sobriety, she said, is not a requirement for entering the facility, although patrons may not consume illegal drugs or alcohol onsite.

Housing Coordinator Sarah Stofer was once homeless in Sacramento County and is now working to provide services to homeless residents, Tuesday, September 27, 2022.Andrew Nixon / CapRadio

“When they come in here,” Johansen said during a media tour of the center on Tuesday, “they’re going to find safety. They’re going to find compassion. They’re going to find a connection to these services that they desperately need.

Sarah Stofer, the site’s housing coordinator, said she knows how powerful these services can be. Stofer said she was homeless in Sacramento and Rancho Cordova for about five years before Rancho Cordova Police Department personnel connected her with housing.

“If it weren’t for programs like this, I wouldn’t be where I am right now,” Stofer said, standing in the wildflower garden she planted on the grounds of the center. “You know, I was living in a tent three years ago. Now I have my own accommodation. I have a brand new car. I have life, I have hopes and dreams that I have a chance to achieve.

“Personally, I want to see other people like me get that chance,” she added.

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