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Sacramento City Council to decide if City Manager has authority over new shelter sites

If approved, City Manager Howard Chan can implement new shelter sites without city council approval.

SACRAMENTO, Calif — The power to open new shelter sites throughout the city might be up to one man, and that decision could happen as soon as Tuesday. Sacramento City Council will decide if City Manager Howard Chan will have the authority to bypass City Council in choosing new temporary housing sites.

In meeting after meeting, Sacramento's City Council has been trying to find quick solutions to fix the homeless crisis. Councilmember Katie Valenzuela is hoping this Tuesday a solution will be that much closer.

"This is by far the top priority concern for all residents in Sacramento, housed and unhoused. So I think it's really exciting that we're talking about taking a real step to scale the model," said Valenzuela.

Mayor Darrell Steinberg proposed the ordinance that would authorize City Manager Howard Chan the ability to choose and open new shelter sites without permission from councilmembers. On top of that, he would be able to spend up to $5 million to implement new safe ground sites.

Councilmember Valenzuela believes current sweeps are not effective and having safe ground sites will be a long term and effective solution.

"The safe sites here in our city have been three times more effective at getting chronically unhoused people off of the street and into the next step, whether it's treatment or shelter or housing," she said.

However, for Bob Erlenbusch, the executive director of the Sacramento Regional Coalition to End Homelessness, he is concerned the city manager won't have the best interest in mind for the unhoused.

"The city council's shouldn't shirk their responsibility by just handing it over to the city manager," said Erlenbusch.

During last week's city council meeting, Mayor Steinberg had a list of questions regarding this decision. Some of those questions included: are the city and county working together on outreach? How many people are enrolled in service? Were there any arrests during outreach?

"The community and the city council members need answers to those questions before they just sort of move ahead and grant the city manager the authority," said Erlenbusch.

Sacramento police officers will ultimately be the ones responsible for enforcement at encampments. A spokesperson says members of the department will be at the meeting tomorrow, but it will not comment until after the meeting.

ABC10 also reached out to Mayor Darrell Steinberg and City Manager Howard Chan for comment, but both declined. However, Mayor Steinberg did give his opinion in a tweet that says in part, "We need new sites to give people places to go and to clean up our city while we work on longer term solutions."


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