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Sacramento County is exploring plans for new homeless shelters. But will they ever get built?

Sacramento County has identified 16 locations for potential new homeless shelters, but whether they ever get built is an open question. Advocates for unhoused residents say they probably won’t due to strong community opposition and slow action by the county Board of Supervisors.

Earlier this spring, county staff unveiled plans for building “safe stay communities” including tiny homes, sanctioned homeless parking areas and supportive services for homeless residents. The shelters are meant to help people transition from local encampments to longer-term housing. 

Both city and county leaders have acknowledged they don’t have enough shelter space to meet the demand of the region’s growing homeless population…

…If all four sites being actively considered are eventually approved, they could add up to 375 new homeless shelter spaces. It would cost an estimated $21 million to build all four sites and $12.5 million to operate them each year, according to a county staff report. 

But a few hundred new beds is far short of what’s needed. The county has approximately 3,400 shelter and housing beds for people experiencing homelessness, according to a report from the nonprofit California Housing Partnership. Typically all shelter spaces are full on any given day. 

Sacramento County’s most recent Point-In-Time [PIT] homeless count in 2019 found more than 5,500 people were homeless, a 19% spike over two years. The survey usually takes place every two years but was canceled last year due to the pandemic.