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City and county to open respite centers for Sacramento homeless during rainstorm

·3 min read

The city and county of Sacramento are opening respite centers for the homeless ahead of a severe rainstorm.

City Hall’s lobby at 915 I St. and the Hagginwood Community Center at 3271 Marysville Blvd. will be open from 8 p.m. Saturday through 6 a.m. Monday, according to a news release. Hours may be extended.

The county will open two Department of Human Assistance lobbies — at 1725 28th St. and 2450 Florin Road — beginning at 8 a.m. Sunday, according to a release. The county is also handing out an increased number of motel vouchers to the homeless during the storm.

Forecasters predict Sacramento could get 4 to 5 inches of rain between Saturday night and Tuesday, when the brunt of a “bomb cyclone” pressure system is expected.

Homeless advocates have been asking city officials to open respite centers for several days.

“It is already raining and the Safe Ground at Broadway/X is flooding,” Bob Erlenbusch of the Sacramento Regional Coalition to End Homelessness wrote in an email to Mayor Darrell Steinberg and City Council members Thursday. “You need to act today!

“What specifically is the plan to open up the promised respite centers this weekend and keep them open at least through March, 2022?”

The city faced criticism when it did not open a warming center on the night of a major storm in January. City Manager Howard Chan cited concerns that a coronavirus outbreak could occur if the city opened the centers more frequently.

Four homeless people died during three days of rain and wind. According to Sacramento County Coroner Kimberly Gin, none of those deaths were from weather-related causes.

Some homeless deaths last winter were weather-related, however. Four homeless men died of hypothermia on nights that temperatures were above freezing and the city and county warming centers were not open.

At the time of the January storm, the city’s practice was to open overnight warming centers only when temperatures dropped to freezing. After the storm, the council opened the centers even in above-freezing temperatures. The city closed one center Feb. 20 and closed two March 31. Workers and a guest at two of the centers tested positive for the coronavirus.

The council in March voted to open weather respite centers year-round, regardless of temperature, but they have opened sporadically during recent bouts of heat.

In September, Steinberg said during a council meeting he wanted the city and county to start planning for warming centers immediately, instead of waiting until December.

“With the forecast predicting a severe storm, it’s crucial that we provide refuge for people living outdoors and exposed to the elements,” Steinberg said in a news release Friday evening. “We are working hard to secure more respite locations that we can operate through the winter. I would like to thank City staff for moving quickly to respond to this unexpected early weather event.”

Officials are also urging people living in or near creek beds and other low-lying areas to move to higher ground before the storm begins and to stay away from the streams and ditches. Residents should report clogged drains to 311.

Volunteers in January 2019 estimated 5,570 homeless people were living in Sacramento, including 3,900 sleeping outdoors and in vehicles. They estimated 10,000 to 11,000 people would experience homelessness at some point during the year. All shelters are typically full on any given night.

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