SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Sacramento’s plan to house more homeless residents could get a big push forward this November. The Sacramento City Council voted 7-2 Wednesday to approve a new homeless ballot measure.
The measure is known as the Emergency Homeless Shelter and Enforcement Act. It would namely do two things:
- One, it would require the city to create more shelter beds and safe spaces by certain dates.
- Two, it would provide more tools and legal cover for removing the unhoused from public property.
Angela Hassell is the executive director at Loaves and Fishes in Sacramento.
“As a whole, I was against it largely because of the enforcement piece, the further criminalizing folks who are unhoused,” explained Hassell.
She understands the ballot initiative was championed by a coalition of local business leaders and also that many Sacramentans have simply run out of patience.
“There’s definitely a push-pull there. Right? I think everybody from the business community to private citizens to folks that work in homeless services, we all want to see an end to homelessness,” Hassell said.
The ballot initiative approved Wednesday would require the city to create shelter for 60% of its homeless population in 20% increments. The first deadline would fall 75 days after the measure is approved.
The ballot initiative the city council voted for was a response to another version of the measure that was circulating, gaining signatures, that would have required shelter for 75% of the homeless population within just 60 days of passing.
However, the Sacramento City Council adopted a “Comprehensive Siting Plan” last in August 2021, identifying 20 sites for homeless shelters throughout the city and dedicating $100 million dollars to make it happen.
Hassell responded to how the two are related.
“This definitely accelerates that process. And it almost appears to kind of push that aside and say ‘We’re going to go this way,’” said Hassell.
Jay Schenirer is the councilmember for District 5. He voted to approve the ballot measure, though he did acknowledge it seemed a bit rushed.
“I think it would have been nice to have a little bit more time. But on the other hand, I’m not sure anything would have been different. This is something we’ve known about for a long time. And we’ve certainly had discussions about homelessness over the last number of years,” Schenirer said.
He also reacted to what this means for the Comprehensive Siting Plan.
“I think it actually brings that plan back into the forefront. We’re going to need those spaces and those sites to be able to meet the, fulfill the requirements of the initiative, assuming it passes,” said Schenirer.
One controversial aspect of the new ballot measure is it would make it illegal to live in public spaces. It would also change the definition of “encampment” in city code to 4 or more unrelated people camping within 50 feet of each other on public property. This would ostensibly provide more tools to law enforcement, where their hands are currently tied.
Councilmember Schenirer responded to the enforcement side of the measure.
“I think that’s a piece of it but again on the other side, we can’t do that unless we’re having spaces for people to go. So it really puts the onus on the city and hopefully the county as well to create more spaces for people to be.”
Voters will have the chance to weigh in on the ballot initiative in November.