The first 45 minutes of the RPNA Board meeting time slot was dedicated to a discussion on the Homeless Master Plan, hosted by Councilmember Harris, and joined by Bridgett Dean, the head of the Department of Community Response, Danielle Foster, Housing Policy Manager, Erin Johansen from Hope Cooperative, and Lisa Bates from Sacramento Steps Forward. Key takeaways are as follows:
- CM Harris reiterated that a component of the RPNA’s summary of the Homeless Master Plan—that the City was considering the Sottish Rite Masonic Center parking lot as a “safe parking” location for the homeless—was incorrect. The only reason the Sottish Rite Masonic Center was shown on a related map was because the owners could apply for a ministerial permit to serve the homeless at that location, which he stated is highly unlikely.
- Dean explained the role of the new Department of Community Response (created in July 2020) is to respond to homeless-related calls that were previously responded to by police. Her department interfaces with the homeless and seeks to find solutions for each individual. She is happy to take questions and reports related to homeless camps via e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
- CM Harris, Foster, Johansen, and Bates described the multi-pronged approach the City has to mitigating the homeless challenge, which includes $31M for affordable housing and initiatives to keep people in homes who are experiencing financial challenges with a rental assistance program (https://www.shra.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/Flyer-final-BW-2.pdf). CM Harris stated that homelessness increased by 20% at the start of the pandemic. He cited recent successes that include housing 2,700 individuals and picking up hundreds of tons of trash.
- Bates provided an overview of the homeless population, using the infographic here
- CM Harris talked about two factors that are making it difficult to move homeless from existing camps: the Boise 9th Circuit decision (which does not allow moving unless there are indoor shelter beds available) and CDC guidelines due to the pandemic that state it is better to have homeless “shelter in place”.
- Mayor Steinberg wants a single up-or-down vote on the entire Homeless Master Plan in June and has challenged every member fo the Council to identify sites to include in the plan. CM Harris explained that he is focused on CalExpo as a location in his district with a plan that would use 20 acres, which is a very small share of the overall site. He supports the Haven for Hope model in San Antonio, while it is expensive, and mentioned Boys Ranch in the County as a potential site (140 acres near Rancho Murieta).
Following this portion of the meeting, the Board discussed the following:
- The March RPNA Board meeting on March 18 at 7:30 pm will also function as our Spring General Meeting. The City will be joining to provide an update on the 2040 General Plan, which has been in the news due to zoning changes. It will be a great opportunity to ask City planning officials about future plans for the City.