Earlier this year, there were reports that Sacramento County “pulled out" of a large real estate deal in downtown Sacramento that would serve as a one-stop shop for providing shelter and services to unhoused individuals. Until Oct. 21, 2022, the details of this effort were protected by a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) that the County honored by not discussing the proposed project. However, now that the NDA has expired, the County can explain the reasons that led the County not to pursue this project.
The concept of the “Downtown Sheltering and Service Center" (the Center) contemplated by this transaction aligns with commitments by both the County and City, that we need not only additional shelter capacity proximate to existing unsheltered encampments, but also the ability to provide 24/7 on-site services, low ratio of case managers and re-housing supports.
Unfortunately, the shared concept got tied to a physical location that, ultimately, was not cost efficient and lacked the physical infrastructure to realize this vision. Before programming could even begin, the initial capital costs for purchase and remodeling of the building were estimated at $90 million. With a maximum of 300 people served at a point in time, this equates to $300,000 per bed space. In comparison, the County's Florin Road Safe Stay community is approximately $48,000 in capital costs per bed space, and the City's W/X Navigation Center was approximately $31,000 per bed space.
Additionally, the space would never be able to provide “non-congregate" sheltering, which has emerged as a best practice post the COVID-19 pandemic and a model unhoused people are more likely to accept. And while there was ample space indoors at the proposed site, there was very limited outdoor space to accommodate storage for personal belongings, pet relief areas and designated smoking or recreational areas. Furthermore, the County believes that providing trauma informed care for up to 300 people with long histories of homelessness and complex medical and behavioral health needs, in one large congregate facility, would not be conducive to positive outcomes. Finally, a condition of the proposed sale was that the center would exclusively serve those living within a 1/2 mile radius of the center, which would limit access for those living unsheltered outside of that radius.
Because of the excessive capital costs and absence of an evidence-based plan for successful outcomes, Sacramento County chose not to move forward with real estate negotiations or a site plan.
Since that time, the County has continued to search for and pursue projects that make sense logistically and fiscally for meeting the diverse needs of the unhoused population. The Board of Supervisors recently approved a real estate purchase of nearly $23 million for a large property and building off Watt Ave. County staff are engaging the community surrounding the area to determine the best use of that facility to serve the unhoused population and will return to the Board of Supervisors on Nov. 15 with recommendations for the program at that location.
County staff are also working constructively and collaboratively with staff from the City of Sacramento on a formal partnership agreement to coordinate resources to best address issues around homelessness.
For more information on what Sacramento County is doing to address homeless, visit the new website.