The number of homeless people sleeping outdoors in downtown Sacramento has decreased by 40% in the past five months, according to a recent monthly census from a nonprofit business group.
The Downtown Sacramento Partnership in its census for February counted 120 unhoused people sleeping on the streets downtown, a decrease from 200 in September 2022.
The reduction has likely resulted from a combination of harsh winter weather, major downtown events and an increase in outreach efforts since the middle of last year, city and nonprofit officials said.
In June, city workers with the Department of Community Response began working in tandem with the Downtown Sacramento Partnership by deploying outreach teams downtown to assist those experiencing homelessness.
Those teams brought 43 people into shelters during the first six months, the nonprofit said, which would work out to just over half of the 80 who made their way off the downtown streets in recent months.
The teams also have provided other services to more than 500 other unhoused people living downtown, according to a news release.
“We are far from done, obviously, but people have asked, ‘Can the strategies we’ve employed ... can this really make a difference?’” Mayor Darrell Steinberg said in an interview. “And in one of the most important economic sectors of our entire region, downtown, we are seeing a real decrease.
“We have to continue that, and we have to continue applying the same approaches throughout the city.”
The recent report comes from the Downtown Sacramento Partnership and was not a city-commissioned report, Steinberg said.
Of the 40% decline, it’s not clear what portion may have moved to other parts of the city or county. But the mayor said there have not been any major enforcement actions on the downtown grid during the past six months.
Steinberg acknowledged that there remains much more work to be done on homelessness.
“It’s not gonna be fast,” he said.
City and county government leaders in December announced a legally binding pact, committing to open more shelter beds, build a new behavioral health center downtown and direct additional outreach teams to visit Sacramento homeless encampments.
The city and county have about 2,300 shelter beds in total, but all are typically full.
The city’s last federally mandated point-in-time homeless count, released last June, revealed that there were an estimated 9,300 people experiencing homelessness any given night, up from about 5,600 in early 2019. Canvassing for the 2022 point-in-time count happened in February.
Other recent developments in the city and county also have prompted concern about the homelessness crisis.
Sacramento Self-Help Housing, a nonprofit, voted earlier this month to close down after contracts with Sacramento County expired and were not renewed. The closure could lead to more than 560 formerly homeless residents returning to the streets by the end of June.
In February, the city announced plans to open 15 trailers to house homeless residents — but the city also has had nearly 100 trailers and tiny homes vacant for nearly two years, The Sacramento Bee reported last month.
Steinberg has lauded California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s gift of 350 new tiny homes, announced earlier this month.
The downtown outreach teams started to focus additional efforts in early 2023 on the W-X corridor of Highway 50, Steinberg said, dedicating three teams to that area. That stretch is not included in the Downtown Sacramento Partnership’s monthly census counts.
“What this represents is hope, and it says to me that the foundation that we have been laying ... has the prospect, has the potential of making an even larger difference,” Steinberg said.
Is Downtown Sacramento ‘coming back?’
The mayor also credited the recent reduction in downtown homelessness to what he said has been an economic rebound in the district.
He cited the Kings’ winning ways this NBA season, NCAA March Madness games being hosted at Golden 1 Center earlier this month, the rebranded Old Sacramento Waterfront area, parades and other celebrations as boosts to downtown economy and its businesses.
The Downtown Sacramento Partnership said that as of late March, 4.7 million people “had visited, worked or lived in downtown so far in 2023,” up from 3.9 million for the same period in 2022 for a 21% increase.
“It’s coming back,” Steinberg said.