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Mayor Steinberg to propose 24-hour respite center for homeless in Sacramento

The proposal aims to allow the city-owned property to be turned into a round-the-clock facility to serve unhoused residents.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg plans to propose a new 24-hour respite and navigation center to serve homeless residents in Sacramento.

The proposal aims to allow the city-owned property at 3615 Auburn Boulevard, which was formerly the Powerhouse Science Center, to be turned into a round-the-clock facility to serve residents experiencing homelessness.

The former science building is currently being used as a respite center that is only open during extreme temperatures. 

"There’s a place to recharge your phone or other devices, and it’s just a way to cool off for a little bit for people who don’t have any other way to get out of the heat. It’s also set up for the same thing during winter time when it’s cold outside or very heavy rain,” said Gregg Fishman, spokesperson for Sacramento's Department of Community Response.

Respite centers offer short-term recuperative care for people experiencing homelessness who are unwell or in need of shelter during unsafe weather conditions. 

The science building was closed Monday and Sunday.

"It was 147.2 degrees in the sun on the asphalt. It was 108.5 in the person’s motorhome, it was 111.9 in their tent and 123.6 in the shade. This was at 7:09 p.m. last night,” said Crystal Sanchez, president of the Sacramento Homeless Union, as she listed off the temperatures experienced by a family with four children at an encampment.  

She said that even with these high temperatures, there were no respite centers open.

According to Mayor Steinberg, the respite center at the science building needs to be open every day. He announced Monday that he’ll introduce a resolution to expand hours. The proposal would keep the facility open 24/7. 

It would start with a limited-pilot program to serve 50 people, and if approved, it can be up and running within a month.

“How can we let a city asset that is not being utilized - where we have put $3.3 million dollars by the way towards its use - How can we not use that to put people indoors and navigate their way out of homelessness?” Steinberg said.

Sanchez said it’s a step in the right direction, but she wants an audit. When the center opened in March, the concept was scaled down after Sacramento City Councilmember Sean Loloee voted against it, citing concerns of nearby neighbors.

The Sacramento Homeless Union filed a lawsuit Friday against both the city and county of Sacramento. Sanchez is part of the lawsuit and said that, after two years of broken promises and several deaths of unhoused neighbors, court was the only option her group saw to compel local governments to open more buildings in extreme weather.

“We’re not going to be silent. We’re not going to let people die on the streets anymore, and we will continue to fight for housing,” Sanchez said.

When it comes to the lawsuit, the mayor’s office said the proposal is not a result of the litigation. City and county officials said they cannot comment on pending legal matters. 

Meanwhile, Sanchez said the homeless union wants to lower the temperature requirements to open respite centers, end sweeps and bring more services to the most impoverished neighborhoods.

Steinberg intends to propose the new facility at an upcoming city council meeting in July. The city is also moving ahead on a tiny home village in South Sacramento and a "Safe Parking" program at the Roseville Road light rail station.

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