A long-awaited shelter for homeless women is set to open Thursday in Sacramento’s Meadowview neighborhood.
The 24-hour shelter, near the corner of Meadowview Road and 24th Street, will provide 50 women with a place to sleep, eat, use the bathroom and shower, as well as medical, mental health, rehousing and job training services.
After the coronavirus pandemic subsides, officials plan to increase capacity to 100 women.
The opening marks the city’s first use of the semi-permanent tent-like structure called a “Sprung” structure. The city plans to open a Sprung shelter at X and Alhambra streets for homeless men and women, but it’s stalled due to the federal government.
The structure, erected on city property, looks similar to a big-top tent from the outside, but on the inside resembles the interior of a brick-and-mortar building. One structure contains dining space and an area for job training, while another contains rows of cots and lockers for storage. Another structure contains bathrooms, showers and laundry.
Unlike some shelters, guests will be able to bring a pet and their belongings. They will not be turned away for having drugs or alcohol in their systems.
Workers were making the beds with colorful quilts on Wednesday to prepare for the first women to arrive Thursday. Women from the Meadowview area will be given priority to get a spot, officials said.
The goal is for each woman to stay at the shelter on average between four to six weeks before moving into permanent housing, Mayor Darrell Steinberg has said. Volunteers of America will be tasked with finding the housing for the women and providing rental assistance for up to six months if needed. The city paid about $10 million to construct the shelter and operate it for about two years.
Some significant details have changed since the City Council approved the shelter last year in a 6-3 vote. At that time, the shelter was set to open in winter of 2019-2020. However, it was delayed, and then when the coronavirus hit, it was delayed further, said Sarah O’Daniel, Sacramento Housing and Redevelopment Agency’s director of homeless initiatives.
When the council approved it, the plan was for the shelter to include women and children. Yolanda Stevenson, of the Rose Family Creative Empowerment Center, stood behind Steinberg during a press conference ahead of the vote where she voiced support for the project.
The council approved it, then later, officials decided the shelter would only be for women.
When Stevenson showed up to tour the shelter Wednesday, she said she was glad a shelter was opening in Meadowview, but was disappointed it would not include children.
“I appreciate that it’s here and it will address some women. It would just be nice if they took another look to help families,” Stevenson said. “We have a high level of families with babies sleeping in their cars.”
In Sacramento County, about 50 percent of the 1,132 people in homeless families sleep outdoors on any given night, according to a homeless census count conducted in January 2019. According to a U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development report, no other large metropolitan area has a higher percentage of its homeless families sleeping outside.
Saprincesa Jennings used to be one of them.
Jennings lived on the riverfront for eight years and gave birth to two children during that time, she said. Volunteers of America staff helped her find housing, get a job and get out of an abusive relationship. On Wednesday, she was excited to start her new job working at the shelter.
“I never thought I’d be standing here,” Jennings said. “It’s a completely different life … I want to help them make sure they have what they need and help get them through that struggle.”
Stevenson said she wants the city to open more shelters in south Sacramento for women and children, and also open parking lots where families can safely sleep in their vehicles. That idea has been long-discussed, but so far no council members have announced sites.
The city and SHRA are also planning to convert a motel in the nearby south Sacramento neighborhood of Parkway into permanent housing for the homeless through the state’s “Project Roomkey” program.
Volunteers of America is asking for donations of pet food, leashes, reusable water bottles, planter boxes for gardening, and other supplies. To donate, visit www.voa-ncnn.org.