By Rachel Wulff

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) – A nonprofit that’s spent the last decade working to address the homeless crisis is finally moving forward with a pilot project.

“Once Covid hit, all the shelters closed,” said a man who only wished to be identified as Eric.

Times have been tough for Eric. He says he has been homeless on and off the last few years and the uncertainty caused by the coronavirus pandemic has had him searching for a new roof over his head once. Staying at one of the 13 tents erected at 12th and C streets in Sacramento seemed like a good idea.

“It’s cleaner — that’s for sure,” said Eric.

A group called Safe Ground is behind the pilot project that has seen success in places like Seattle.

“It’s a different atmosphere now; people are really starting to realize something needs to be done,” said John Kraintz.

Kraintz, who was once living in a tent himself, says the tents are 10 years in the making.

At the rate real estate is costing for rentals, it’s very difficult to find a place to be,” he said. “The only way to solve this is to use alternative housing,” said Kraintz.

The tents are more affordable: $100 versus $7,000-$8,000 for a tiny house.

“It’s just logic and it’s something we owe to those less fortunate in society,” said Attorney Mark Merin.

Merin owns the lot where tents are placed. There is a porta-potty, outdoor shower, sinks, and bike storage. He says the project is supported by nonprofits and businesses and is COVID-19 compliant, with tent doors facing away from each other and physical distancing between them.

“A lot of individuals and organizations are stepping up and saying it’s time to get homeless people off the streets into something better,” said Merin.

People who support the idea say there need to be hundreds more projects like this in our area.

“If you are going to try something new, try it in a test tube rather than a 55-gallon drum so if something exposes, you don’t have much of a problem,” said Kraintz.

Eric says it’s a good place to take that next step but knows it will be up to each individual to do the work.

“It’s up to the person that actually wants to change what they are doing,” he said.

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