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California city to provide services to homeless encampment

homelessness
Posted at 12:31 PM, Apr 01, 2023

A Northern California city said it will let a homeless encampment stay on some public land, agreeing to provide trailers and other services for up to four months.

A group of homeless people, mostly women, have been living on a lot owned by the city of Sacramento, California, for more than a year, the Sacramento Bee reported.

On Friday, city officials announced they had leased the land for free to Safe Ground Sacramento, a nonprofit group, for up to four months. People can park their cars or RVs on the property, and the city will provide up to 33 trailers for people to live in.

The city said the site will be self-governed by what it calls a “resident council," along with an operations plan that must be approved by the City Council in the next 30 days.

“I am incredibly proud that through months of hard work and open communication we found an innovative solution for this site that benefits our entire community,” Councilmember Sean Loloee, whose district includes the land, said in a city blog post.

For decades, major cities across California have been grappling with homelessness, a problem that has only worsened in recent years as a housing shortage has increased rents and made it difficult to find an affordable place to live. California now has nearly a third of the nation's homeless population, according to federal data.

Cities have tried lots of different approaches to address the issue. In San Jose, a city of nearly 1 million people at the south end of the San Francisco Bay, officials installed about 500 small homes for homeless people to live in. The program reduced the rate of the city's homeless people who were unsheltered for the first time in years, Mayor Matt Mahan said.

Last month, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced the state would build 1,200 of these small homes across the state — homes that are as small as 120 square feet (11 square meters) that have electricity but no running water. Sacramento is scheduled to get 350 of those homes, most of which will likely be at the state fairgrounds, according to Mayor Darrell Steinberg.

Across California, local governments have plans for a 15% reduction in homelessness by 2025. Those plans originally called for a 2% reduction in homelessness, a goal that angered Newsom because he thought it was too low. Local governments revised those plans after Newsom threatened to withhold state funding.

The homeless encampment in Sacramento, known as “Camp Resolution,” is not meant to be permanent. The city said the initial lease will run for four months. But the lease can be renewed until “all the residents obtain permanent housing.”

“We are anxious to assist Camp Resolution residents to demonstrate that homeless people can self-govern and assist each other to obtain permanent housing,” said Mark Merin, executive director for Safe Ground Sacramento.