SACRAMENTO COUNTY, Calif. — Sacramento County started offering motel vouchers on Friday to help get the homeless off the street before an upcoming heatwave arrives in Northern California.
Janna Hayes, a Sacramento County public information officer, told ABC10 the program began in the wake of a winter storm at the end of January after two people reportedly died while outdoors. She says it is the first time they will be using this system to shelter peopled during hotter temperatures.
Homeless outreach organizations will work with the county to refer those who are most vulnerable to the incoming heatwave. There is currently no way for people to directly sign up for the program.
Those who are offered the motel voucher may bring their family or a partner. They may also have up to two animals with them. The number of vouchers will be determined by how much hotel availability there is.
The county received a Homeless Housing, Assitance and Prevention Grant through Sacramento Steps Forward to pay for the voucher program. The first wave of motel vouchers will end by Wednesday when county officials believe temperatures would drop.
The motel voucher program will be activated throughout the summer when the county is expecting a heatwave.
The motel voucher took shape due to the dangers of putting people close to each other amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
"We've had good success bringing people in off the streets into a motel scenario," Hayes said. "Being able to connect with them and potentially offer them services that can help them in their journey out of homelessness from here on out.
The Sacramento Homeless Union launched a recall campaign against Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg, arguing he had the authority to open warming shelters amid an extreme weather emergency.
The organization released a news statement saying that the county motel vouchers are not enough to save lives.
"(The county) needs to remove the weather guidance rules before more people die on the streets," the statement reads. "These are human rights violations and will be handled as such."