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The City's 24/7 respite center

Shoutout to our Sacramento State University intern Sarah Rabanales for her work on this write-up!

A year round, 24/7 respite center was voted and approved unanimously by the Sacramento City Council on Tuesday, June 26th 2022. Back in March of 2021, the Council approved 3.3 million dollars for Hope Cooperative (link here) to take over the Science and Space Center Museum (3615 Auburn Blvd - pictured on the left) and facilitate it as a respite center. During this time, the respite center was only to be opened under specific weather thresholds by the National Weather Service, such as a Heat Advisory over the summer. Yet, since then the respite center has only been used SIX times, despite the fact that there have been countless days of extreme weather, especially since the beginning of summer. This moved the Council, especially Mayor Steinberg, to reinstate this motion but to make the respite center a year round, 24/7 center regardless of weather conditions.

Although this respite center can help the ongoing crisis Sacramento is facing, there is quite a bit of pushback with the outcome. During this meeting, over a dozen public comments were made rejecting this motion on the basis of safety for the community surrounding the respite center. According to these comments, many members of the community are afraid that opening up this center will bring in predators, drugs, pollution, violence, etc.

Soooo, typical NIMBY nonsense.

Many also cited the Children’s Receiving Home of Sacramento, a nonprofit serving foster youth, and the Del Paso Park as a concern because it is within a mile of the respite center. Opposition came on behalf of the receiving home because they originally opposed the idea, but according to Steinberg, the receiving center now has a neutral position after some discussion and reassurance of the good neighbor policy which ensures safety conduct.

Others opposed this idea for other concerns, such as Crystal Sanchez the President of the Sacramento Homelessness Union. As explained by the Council, the respite center will only allow people into the center with a Department of Community Response (DCR) referral or after calling 311. As explained by Crystal, this can create quite a barrier for many who do not have the resources, such as a phone, for this approval or even a way to get to the center. She also voiced concern over the fact that this center isn’t for the entire community, but only those selected. With that being said, Sanchez and the Sacramento Homelessness Union remained neutral on this motion.

CapRadio reported that the day before the motion was passed, more than 50 people gathered outside of the respite center to protest the vote.

Despite the overwhelming opposition to this motion, the Council discussed and voted unanimously to open this center under the facilitation of the Hope Cooperative. Although this motion was passed, many of the Council members still have some

reservations with Councilmember Loloee requesting a 30-day check up in order to make sure the concerns of his District 2 constituents are met and upheld.

So why does this matter to SJPC readers? And what can we do?

Although this center really is a step in the right direction in the fight against homelessness, it also misses the mark. As the climate crisis continues to worsen, so will the unhoused crisis in Sacramento. As the 2022 Point in Time Homeless Count released by the Sacramento County Continuum of Care reported, over nine thousand people are currently unhoused in Sacramento. Creating an exclusive respite center that only holds 50 people for only 24 hours at a time is not enough.

We need to urge the City Council to do more, to find more housing.

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