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Sacramento City Council votes to continue motel Voucher Program on March 2

Updated: Mar 16

Sacramento City Council voted unanimously to continue its Emergency Response Program for non-congregate shelters, which includes the Motel Voucher Program, through September 30. This coincides with the date through which FEMA will fully reimburse local governments for providing motel rooms to unsheltered people who either have COVID-19, or who meet criteria for being especially sensitive to the virus.


This is just a start. Sacramento City Council is set to vote on March 9 about whether they should keep overnight shelters open year round and discontinue using the County's arbitrary temperature thresholds for emergency shelter.


This topic has sparked a lot of media coverage following the meeting.


Check out Niki Jones with Sacramento Homeless Organizing Committee recent essay More Deaths on the Streets, More Unanswered Questions in Sacramento News & Review about the city’s response to homelessness. Here's a few points, but we recommend that you read the entire essay.

There has been much blame thrown about and very little responsibility taken by both those in power and those with power. I am not referencing the events and discourse of the last month, which have been heartbreaking, enraging, and narrative-shifting in nature. I am referencing years of harm, years of broken promises, years of blame, and years of a choice…
But our emergency homeless response system is not easily accessible. It bottlenecks easily and churns people out more rapidly than it brings them. It also relies heavily on law enforcement, whose dual role as enforcer of a torturous policy of displacement, and as a service-provider, is a recipe for mistrust, coercion, and harm.

And of course, Mayor Steinberg made some public statements after meeting in this March 4 op-ed Let’s Keep Triage Centers Open in The Sacramento Bee..

I am asking the council to commit to keeping overnight shelters open-year round, regardless of the weather. This decision may seem small compared with our votes on multi-million dollar shelters, service programs and housing projects. It is not...If we are serious about housing our unsheltered neighbors, we will commit to dramatically reducing the tag gap.

Prior to the council meeting, Councilmember Valenzuela had raised concerns that the city might be seeking to take funding away from warming centers to spend on motel vouchers. Mayor Steinberg said this is not the case. Valenzuela did not contradict him on that during the meeting.


Council will vote on March 9 about whether to keep overnight shelters open all year, regardless of County’s temperature requirements.


In addition to discussing next week’s vote, members discussed the issue of homelessness more broadly.


Ashby came in with strong support of continuing warming centers when they need them and shelters when people need a place to go. She also urged council to aspire to a goal of achieving functional zero population for homeless women and children by the end of the year.


Councilmember Loloee rambled on in his comments asking for benchmarks and measures about the unhoused population. At one point, he asked if there was a "magic number or a dollar amount needed to fix the problem." He went on to say it's not just about affordable housing, until we figure out how combat substance abuse and mental health we will never solve this problem. He also stressed that we need to consider our business owners and especially homeowners, who are frustrated with picking up trash and losing the privacy they once enjoyed at home. In short, he missed the boat on understanding the systemic issues that need to fixed.


Councilmember Valenzuela was quick to step in to course correct, however, Mayor Steinberg jumped to say that this is not just about affordable housing and encouraged the council to "educate each other" on the entirety of the issue.


Ashby came in with strong support of continuing warming centers when they need them and shelters when people need a place to go. She also urged council to aspire to a goal of achieving functional zero population for homeless women and children by the end of the year.


UPDATE: At the meeting on March 9th the Council voted to completely remove weather based criteria for shelters, moving from warming/cooling centers to year round triage. This means the City will continue to open centers, safe parking and camping, etc as long as needed. YAH!

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