After a long and nervously anticipated civic response to the pandemic, Sacramento Homelessness COVID-19 Response Team, made up of the County of Sacramento, the City of Sacramento, Sacramento Steps Forward and SHRA, announced their goal to serve 1,800 COVID-19 impacted individuals or families experiencing homelessness. They are currently in the process of adding 200 beds to existing shelter programs using CDC shelter guidance; making available 200 motel rooms with the services in the near-term, with a goal of 800 rooms; SHRA is making available 200 Housing Choice Vouchers for homeless families; and 63 trailers will be delivered to Cal Expo. Nothing has been planned or announced to provide places for all the unsheltered people that have not been tested positive for COVID-19. More was expected and more was expected sooner, but at this rate we probably won’t solve homelessness for short or long term. Law enforcement has been directed by the CDC to quit making people living unsheltered to move along, to stop the sweeps, and the City and County are being urged to get the word out and reign them in.
The most amazing work is already being done by concerned community volunteers. They did not wait. They did not ever go into isolation because they could not hide while people were on the streets deserted by the housed and newly hidden. The streets cleared out, the sidewalks emptied, of all the workers and partiers and tourists and shoppers, leaving the houseless to face the fear or anxiety by themselves, without word of what to expect, what they were supposed to do, how scared should they be, how to protect themselves. The community volunteers went out daily to share food, do fundraising drives to buy and place washing station by camps. And county health workers and other medical experts joined with the effort to visit the camps and provide training and screening.
Water and Food. Downtown Sacramento’s water faucets have been turned off for years. Bathrooms were promised for Cesar Chavez Park, order to be delivered in May. Meanwhile, not even portapotties are provided anywhere, except by a few volunteers that had started providing them before the pandemic. All these 3rd world or worse conditions are being made public and apparent during this crisis. In the future when looking back, the City of Sacramento will go down in history as failing miserably in this crisis—so inept and criminal neglect and ignoring of their most needful members of the community.
SHOC’s office has been closed and our street paper’s vendor program was also discontinued for now. We are having our weekly meetings on Zoom and our bi-weekly journalism workshop is also still going on Zoom. We formed a new Services not Sweeps Coalition with at least 23 organizations who are now organizing and coordinating work on Zoom, some are still working outside and others from home, only.
We are going forward with opening up a vacant lot with Safe Ground Sacramento to provide a place for ten to 20 individuals living in tents that we are providing, as a start for a campaign to provide more locations for others to live in community with some hygiene facilitation and self-government. A few locations have been identified.
Our publication, Homeward Street Journal, published a special issue that is meant mostly for the unsheltered readership. That group has been tragically left out of the loop with information about the Coronavirus and how to protect themselves and others, what else is going on, Safe Ground call to action, a list of what services have identified a commitment to continue services, however dialed down.
Here’s a link to the Homeward Special Edition https://sacshoc.files.wordpress.com/2020/03/hw24-3se-3.pdf
COVID-19 information guide for unsheltered Sacramentans: https://sacshoc.files.wordpress.com/2020/03/covid-what-is-it-article.pdf
Sac Bee Article “As coronavirus spreads, no homeless have been moved into Sacramento motels. What’s the holdup?”