Work on Sutter County’s emergency homeless shelter, Better Way, is underway. The sheds were transported to the site on Tuesday morning and workers have assembled several units.
The crew from Tuff Shed spent Tuesday morning unloading the sheds off trailers, painting walls and assembling some of the 20 units that will comprise Better Way, which is located directly behind the Sutter-Yuba Behavioral Health building on Live Oak Boulevard in Yuba City. They plan to return next week to finish the project.
Sutter County Public Information Officer Chuck Smith said the plan is to roll out the new program over the next several weeks, little by little. Up to six homeless individuals could move into the first round of assembled sheds as early as next week.
“We wanted to start small. It’s a new program, so we just wanted to make sure we are doing things right,” Smith said.
The shelter, similar to what’s been done in Yuba County with 14Forward, will provide a place for homeless individuals to stay temporarily while they search for transitional or permanent housing. The units are 160 square feet and each will have two beds, which will provide shelter for up to 40 homeless individuals at a time.
“Health and Human Services, Public Health, and other homeless resources folks have been working to identify best candidates for the project,” Smith said. “We are looking for candidates that don’t necessarily qualify for other homeless services in the area but individuals that want to get housed and don’t want to be living on the street or by the river.”
The plan is to give each individual 90 days of shelter while they look to get back on their feet. However, if they have demonstrated they are working hard toward that goal after 90 days, their stay could be extended. It’s behavior-based, Smith said, and each case will be handled individually by case workers.
Smith said the facility will be low-barrier shelter, meaning occupants won’t be required to attend religious services or be subjected to drug testing in order to stay, though sex offenders are not eligible for the program.
“While they stay here, they will have access to all of the wrap-around services provided in the area for homeless individuals,” Smith said.
The facility will be staffed by case workers throughout the week, and multiple security guards will monitor the area around the clock. The county is also currently updating the drainage system and leveling the surface around the facility’s grounds in order to add more space for the remaining sheds. Once all of the work is complete, a perimeter fence will be erected to ensure safety for the structures and occupants.
Each unit cost $4,820, for a total of $96,400 for all 20 sheds. Smith said a few of the sheds will be designated for homeless individuals who are released from the hospital and need a place to stay.
While the county works to get the ball rolling, officials are also planning to solicit proposals from nonprofits interested in managing the facility.
“There are nonprofits that do this kind of work already, that are running shelters,” Smith said. “This is a community shelter, so we hope the community will embrace this project.”
During a point-in-time count earlier this year, at least 706 individuals were experiencing homelessness throughout the Yuba-Sutter area. Of those counted, 512 individuals were without shelter, while the rest were staying in local homeless shelters.