GWEN MAYSE leaned against her Honda Accord and looked around nervously with her small Yorkshire terrier tucked under her arm. She was too scared to sleep. Mayse, 59, normally sleeps in her car with her two small dogs. She lies in the driver’s seat, reclined all the way back. She parks next to her daughter’s Jeep Cherokee in a cul-de-sac of a north Sacramento business park. Half of the cul-de-sac is surrounded by barbed wire. The warehouse that used to house a city homeless shelter sits empty only feet away. As Sacramento struggles to find a solution to its growing homeless problem – opening and closing shelters, converting hotels to help the homeless, occasionally clearing out homeless encampments – a new problem confronts the county. The number of people, including families with children, living in their cars in Sacramento County has drastically increased in the last four years. Volunteers canvassing the county in January found four times the number of vehicles where people were living than they counted in 2015. Researchers estimate people were sleeping in at least 340 vehicles in the county. This included approximately 100 children. Most of the vehicles were in the city of Sacramento. The problem illustrates the complex task of reducing the homeless population in Sacramento, which has seen rents and housing prices rise dramatically even as it budgets tens of millions of dollars on shelters and support services. The city is scrambling to avoid problems like those in San Francisco, where scenes of squalor have become a symbol of the divide between the rich and the poor.
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