Enhanced Winter Sanctuary

Enhanced Winter Sanctuary

Operating Daily from November 1, 2023 through March 31, 2024

On November 1, 2023 the City opened a temporary Enhanced Winter Sanctuary for seniors and other vulnerable people experiencing homelessness to provide compassionate care to those who have an especially difficult time during the winter months. 
 
The Enhanced Winter Sanctuary is funded through Measure E and is modeled after a program previously offered in Elk Grove by non-profit and faith-based organizations. It offers consistent shelter for up to 30 of the city’s unhoused residents during the cold and rainy winter months, as well as opportunities to connect with social services, resources, and housing. Priority is given to Elk Grove residents or people with a connection to Elk Grove. 
 
The Enhanced Winter Sanctuary operates independently of any warming centers that may be activated elsewhere in the City. Overnight warming locations will continue to temporarily serve those who lack shelter or adequate home heating equipment during particularly cold conditions as dictated by criteria established by the Sacramento County Office of Emergency Services (OES). 

Sign up for updates regarding the Enhanced Winter Sanctuary. 

Enhanced Winter Sanctuary Dashboard

Data reporting for November 2023 - January 2024

Unique Guests: 47

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Bed Nights Provided: 1896

"Bed nights" refer to the number of times EWS beds were used in the specified time frame

Entry and Exit Locations

 
 

Characteristics of EWS Guests

 

Document Readiness

A client who is "document ready" has up-to-date documentation that may be needed to acquire permanent housing or other benefits and services. They include income verification, homelessness verification, social security cards, IDs, and birth certificates. The Gathering Inn's staff works one-on-one with all shelter guests to get them to this point.

 

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Enhanced Winter Sanctuary?

The Enhanced Winter Sanctuary is a temporary facility for Elk Grove residents experiencing homelessness. The goal is to offer consistent shelter to people during the cold and rainy winter months as well as opportunities to connect to social services, resources, and housing.

Why do we need this?

The City has seen an uptick in seniors and other vulnerable people experiencing homelessness, many for the first time. This is especially difficult during the winter months, when weather conditions have led to deaths in other communities.

Having available shelter options provides compassionate care to those who need it most and it increases the effectiveness of the Elk Grove Police Department in addressing homelessness because they can cite people for camping on public property if they choose not to accept shelter.

Where will the Enhanced Winter Sanctuary be located?

For the 2023-24 winter season, it will be located at 9260 Elk Grove Blvd (former Rite Aid building). This City-owned building is the home of the future Elk Grove Library, which will start construction in mid-2024, meaning it can’t be used for the Enhanced Winter Sanctuary in future years.

If the 2023-24 Enhanced Winter Sanctuary is a success, City staff will evaluate options for locating it to a different location in future years.

When will the Enhanced Winter Sanctuary be offered?

It will operate from November 1, 2023 to March 31, 2024 and will be open 24 hours a day during that timeframe. There will be a nightly curfew for participants, with exceptions made for those who work late or early shifts.

Didn’t there used to be something like this run by a nonprofit?

Elk Grove HART (Homeless Assistance Resource Team) operated a winter sanctuary program that they called EG WINS for 12-14 weeks in the winter for many years. The program served up to 25 adults weekly from several churches. Under their model, people checked in nightly at the Elk Grove United Methodist Church (EGUMC) and volunteer drivers transported them to the host church in the evening and back to EGUMC in the morning.

Unfortunately, the 2019-20 season was the last year Elk Grove HART ran EG WINS. Post-pandemic, they’ve focused their efforts elsewhere. The Enhanced Winter Sanctuary builds on the EG WINS model and expands it to provide a consistent location and more nights of access.

How many people can stay at the Enhanced Winter Sanctuary?

Up to 30 adults can be served each night. The facility will only serve adults. Families with minor children will continue to be served by motel voucher programs.

Once a person is approved for the Enhanced Winter Sanctuary, they will have a bed for the duration of the season. People may be asked to leave the Enhanced Winter Sanctuary for behavioral reasons or for missing more than one night. If they are asked to leave, they will not be allowed to return and their bed will be given to someone else.

How will people be selected for the Enhanced Winter Sanctuary?

Priority will be given to Elk Grove residents or people with a connection to Elk Grove. Only people that have been vetted by a social services agency and have a referral will be accepted. No walk-up or drop-in access is allowed.

The City made the decision to use a referral-only system to reduce the burden on the neighborhood. Referral-only systems, also known as coordinated access, allow guests to be appropriately vetted and discourage loitering and unauthorized drop-offs.

Are there any restrictions on who can stay at the Enhanced Winter Sanctuary?

Yes, there are restrictions. The facility will not serve: 

  • Registered sex offenders 
  • People with serious behavioral health challenges 
  • People who wish to use drugs or alcohol on-site. 
Will pets be allowed?

Yes. Many people experiencing homelessness have pets that are very important to them. A key aspect of convincing them to participate is accommodating their pets.

How will you make sure the area around the facility is safe?

Safety and security are very important to the City. In addition to limiting access, the Enhanced Winter Sanctuary will have a mobile camera on-site, which will be monitored by the Elk Grove Police Department. 

The service provider operating the site will also have rules around security and safety, including: 

  • No weapons, alcohol, drugs, or drug paraphernalia allowed on site 
  • Limited access during certain hours (e.g., locked overnight) 
  • Clearly posted rules and expectations for all guests 
If I have concerns, who can I contact?

The Gathering Inn is required to have a point of contact for residents or businesses and is obligated to respond to concerns within 48 hours. 

If you have a concern or an issue with a guest of the Enhanced Winter Sanctuary on-property, please notify Clyde Turner at The Gathering Inn at (916) 666-1989 or by email.

How is this effort being funded?

The Enhanced Winter Sanctuary will be funded by Measure E. Community polling in the development of Measure E listed addressing homelessness among the highest community priorities. Following the passage of Measure E, the City held a community forum discussing program options for addressing homelessness as part of the development of the Measure E Expenditure Plan. At this meeting, community members prioritized providing a winter shelter for those experiencing homelessness. Based on this feedback and staff recommendations, the Fiscal Year 2024 Budget and Measure E Expenditure Plan included funding for this program this year.

Who will be operating the Enhanced Winter Sanctuary?

The City selected The Gathering Inn, a Roseville-based nonprofit to operate the Enhanced Winter Sanctuary. The Gathering Inn has experience operating shelters in Roseville and Auburn, and offers a robust staffing model that including a program director, shelter monitors, case managers, and substance use disorder and mental health professionals.

What other options did the City explore for locating the Enhanced Winter Sanctuary?

The City explored a number of options including partnering with faith-based organizations to donate or lease their facilities (as Elk Grove HART previously did), leasing commercial or industrial space, or using vacant City-owned property. Given the short timeframe between the approval of Measure E funding and the impending winter season, the proposed site was the only option that met the code requirements and timing needs.

Will this attract people experiencing homelessness from other places?

The City and its service provider plan to implement a geographical preference so that the Enhanced Winter Sanctuary serves people with an Elk Grove connection, including those staying in our community or who last lived in Elk Grove. The facility is limited to 30 guests per night and, with the help of our homeless navigator and Police Department homeless outreach team, we expect those spaces will be quickly filled by unhoused individuals already staying in the Elk Grove area.

Do other communities have winter sanctuaries?

Yes. Many suburban communities, including Folsom, Citrus Heights, and Rancho Cordova, operate winter sanctuaries. Additionally, Sacramento and the unincorporated County have many year-round facility options. Unfortunately, the number of available shelter beds in Sacramento County is not adequate to offer access to all those who need it.

Will this replace warming centers?

No. Warming centers are required to open when certain weather conditions are met by the Sacramento County Office of Emergency Services (OES). Warming centers help a range of people, including those who are homeless and those who may be experiencing problems such as broken heating systems. Warming centers will not be offered in the same location as the Enhanced Winter Sanctuary. Elk Grove Warming Centers are typically offered at the Wackford Community Center, District 56, or the Elk Grove Police Department.

How do I report a general homelessness concern?

If you have a concern about a person you believe is homeless in Elk Grove, please reach out as follows:

How You Can Help

All residents can play a role in helping the City effectively address homelessness. Here’s how you can be involved:

Request Outreach

The City’s homeless services navigators provide connections to mental health resources and other social services, transportation, and assessments for shelter or housing. If you would like the City’s homeless services navigator to reach out to a person you believe is homeless, call (916) 588-0304 or email. Please provide a description of the person and where they are staying or where you have seen them.

Volunteer at the Enhanced Winter Sanctuary

If you are interested in volunteering at the Enhanced Winter Sanctuary, please fill out the volunteer form on The Gathering Inn website or email Meredith Adams. Many types of volunteer opportunities are available, from serving a meal to sharing a skill or talent.

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Contact

Housing  

Homeless Navigation Hotline

(916) 588-0304

Housing Administrative Analyst

Haimanot Ashenafi

Email or (916) 627-3204

Housing Division

Email, (916) 478-2254 or fax (916) 627-4800
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