SACRAMENTO — Sacramento city and county leaders are taking new steps to help people experiencing homelessness.
The two sides had been at odds in the past over who was responsible for providing shelter and counseling. Now, today's action legally requires them to work together.
"This is the first time we've done this," said Ann Edwards, Sacramento County executive.
In two unanimous votes, both the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors and the City Council approved new efforts to join forces and get homeless people safely off the streets.
"We've come together with a plan that's going to change lives," said Sue Frost, Sacramento County supervisor.
"This is going to require us to act," said Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg. "That's got to make a difference."
The action comes one month after voters approved Measure O, which requires the city and county to create more shelter space and prohibits camping on public property.
"I think the citizens spoke and said we want to see some real change in our streets," said Amanda Blackwood of the Measure O committee.
So what are the new homeless outreach efforts? Ten new behavioral health teams will be created to help address the crisis.
"I believe behavioral health work in the field is going to be a game changer," Edwards said.
The county is also now required to create 200 new shelter beds within the next year and up to 400 more within three years.
"Six hundred beds sounds like a drop in the bucket," said Patrick Kennedy, Sacramento County supervisor. "It actually will serve thousands of people."
But some are concerned the new efforts won't work.
"I got to admit, I'm a little skeptical," one person said at Tuesday's city council meeting.
"You have a core population that wants to stay homeless," another person said.
Others say it doesn't go far enough.
"We remain concerned about the inadequacy of the shelter spaces," a third person said.
And with an estimated 9,200 people in Sacramento County without permanent housing, supporters want these efforts to start immediately.
"We don't want to go another year where people die on the streets, where people don't get the help that they need," Blackwood said.
The City of Sacramento has already set aside $25 million to address the homeless crisis, and the county said their outreach and shelter efforts could cost up to $10 million.
"We're excited to see that the city and county are working together in a new way," Blackwood said. "I think we've had more progress in the last six months than we've had in the last six years"
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