With two homeless individuals in Sacramento county having recently tested positive for COVID-19, increased attention has been placed on the county to reduce the health risks posed by afflicted homeless people both to the vulnerable homeless population and also to the greater public.
In addressing the issue thus far, the City of Sacramento has passed a $15 million plan intended to assist the city’s homeless population during the COVID-19 crisis. The initiative aims to secure motel rooms and trailers for the homeless, in addition to expanding existing shelters and providing additional food and supplies.
As of Friday, April 3rd, 63 trailers had been set up at Cal-Expo in accordance with the housing section of the passed plan. The trailers are fully-furnished and can hold up to two people, yet are not deemed large enough to house a full family.
850 motels are to be assigned as well, with 37 families having moved into rooms as of last week. This solution is part of a larger, statewide effort to secure hotel and motel rooms to shelter California’s homeless during the current crisis.
Sights have been set beyond housing, however. “People who have been unsheltered for a long time, obviously, have a bunch of issues that they need to work out to be successful in housing,” commented Sacramento Vice Mayor Jeff Harris. “Just moving people indoors will not be successful without good service providers.”
The plan allocated approximately $1.25 million to ‘encampment’ costs to address this issue. This includes providing a planned 500 meals per day to the newly-housed, installing 50 sanitation stations for the encampments, and additionally spending nearly $500,000 on ‘supplies, outreach and transportation’.
Despite these efforts, the homeless population has faced turbulence from the city during the crisis. Sacramento Police drew recent attention for clearing homeless camps during the pandemic, disregarding CDC Guidelines that advised against breaking up homeless encampments in order to avoid potential disbursement of the virus.
“They come through, waking us up, turning the lights on, sometimes singing, sometimes playing loud music over the PA,” says Kellie Howard, a Sacramento resident experiencing homelessness.
With California currently still afflicted, it is hoped that the housing plan will be effective in further reducing the spread of COVID-19.
“It’s so important that we get our homeless housed for public health, and that we get them help so they can stay housed,” commented State Senator Richard Pan, “so this is a very important step for us to do that.”