Sacramento proposes homeless shelter near school. It doesn't go well

Sadly, it’s time for another update on the homelessness crisis in California, specifically in Sacramento. You can’t say that the city isn’t at least trying to come up with some solutions. One recent proposal calls for the construction of dozens of cabins in the fashion of tiny homes on a vacant five-acre lot. It’s an admittedly minimalist way to live, but each one could at least get a couple of people under a roof while more permanent solutions are developed.

Unfortunately for the homeless in Sacramento, the plan may wind up coming to a screeching halt. The vacant lot being looked at is immediately adjacent to a junior high school. That brought residents out in droves to a recent meeting at the school where they expressed their outrage over the idea. (CBS Sacramento)

Outrage overflowed in North Sacramento Wednesday night over a proposed homeless shelter just yards from an elementary school.

Hundreds attended a community meeting at Rio Tierra Junior High to speak out against a proposed facility for women and children across from Garden Valley Elementary. Neighbors said it will bring nothing but problems.

City leaders want to build dozens of small cabins on a five-acre lot off Northgate that is currently empty.

“I don’t want that environment for my kids,” said Rosa Romero, a mom with two kids at Garden Valley Elementary school.

I sympathize with the Mayor to a certain extent here. Cost-effective solutions for homelessness are hard to come by and it’s only natural that he would feel like he has to try something. But at the same time, there are multiple problems with this plan.

The parents and neighbors at that meeting were raising completely valid complaints. Any time you set up a sizeable homeless facility, problems arise with sanitary concerns, drug use and crime. Many of the children who attend that school walk there from their homes each day. Obviously the parents would be concerned.

Beyond that, the plan is simply inefficient in terms of addressing the full scale of the problem. As of last year, the city estimated that they had more than 5,000 homeless and that number was only rising. This new collection of sheds is only expected to provide housing for 100 women and children and it’s taking up five acres of land. On a property that size you should easily be able to construct an actual housing complex capable of providing beds for at least a thousand people.

The problem, of course, is the money. Those sheds can probably be obtained and set up far more cheaply, particularly if the project will rely on a centralized kitchen and dining facility as proposed. But it wouldn’t result in making much of a dent in the overall homeless population.

Beyond budget concerns, you’re always going to run into a NIMBY response when talking about new homeless shelters. This phenomenon was greatly amplified by proposing to plop the project down right next to a middle school. Of course the parents were going to revolt.

The Mayor needs to go back to the drawing board on this one. If they’ve got the money to construct all of these sheds, it could probably be put to better use converting an abandoned building further away from schools and residential neighborhoods. That’s the approach Los Angeles has been trying to take and it at least appears more productive than this. And the White House has already begun pushing plans to convert abandoned federal buildings. If Sacramento has any of those types of structures, they might want to pick up the phone and call Washington, unless the idea of working with Donald Trump to solve a problem is simply too revolting for them.