Homelessness is one of the most challenging problems we face in our region. The city is a partner to Sacramento Steps Forward’s Common Cents program that uses positive outreach, data, and community partnerships to connect vulnerable populations with housing to address a myriad of individualized challenges. Sacramento will continue to invest millions of dollars in this permanent, supportive, wrap-around-services, housing first, approach.
The key to addressing homelessness includes identifying sustainable resources to expand our permanent supportive housing stock, enhancing collaboration among all service providers in the regional continuum of care, and improving our information and data gathering to track the impact of our outreach efforts. We need to allow for modifications as necessary and support organizations with a track record of success in serving vulnerable populations.
Intensive outreach, robust service provisions, and housing availability are the focus. There are no shortcuts to solving the complex problems that homelessness presents. This issue requires an unwavering commitment to the stated goal; anything else is a distraction and will delay progress.
- 24/7 Homeless Crisis Services: Homelessness is an issue that affects our community at every hour of the day, and especially at every hour of the night. When a police officer or a navigator with Sacramento Steps Forward encounters a person who is experiencing a crisis, they should not be hamstrung by the hour of the day. Currently, their only late-night options are based on the emergency room or the jail. Instead, let’s work to pool resources to open a 24 hour / 7 days a week crisis service center.Additionally, we need to ensure that navigators have the ability to shuttle people to the emergency resources that they need — and let’s track shelter space availability so that navigators and police can see in real time where beds and other resources are available.While these programs should remain under the management of the county (and non-profit partners), the city must be an active partner in putting the resources together to make this happen. This could include providing city-owned land, financial resources, outreach to funding partners, the assistance of existing city staff, and the cooperation of the Police and Fire Departments.
- Empowerment: The city must partner with the excellent non-profits, activists, and supportive businesses to empower community members.
- Create a City Homelessness Commission: Residents, activists, non-profits and service providers, and businesses should be empowered to help shape the city’s response to homelessness. This commission would open the process up and build upon the current efforts of the City Council’s Ad Hoc Homeless Subcommittee. One task of this committee should be reviewing the effectiveness of funding from the city and working to shift resources from reactive policies to preventive and proactive ones.
- Enhance the City’s Role in Sacramento Steps Forward’s Continuum of Care Advisory Board: Currently, the City of Sacramento’s only official representative on the committee that manages frontline care and services is our Police Department. It’s vital that our city takes a leadership role in shaping the goals and reviewing the effectiveness of the partnership that we are investing in.
- Identify Funding for Permanent Supportive Housing Units: Sacramento needs an additional 1000-1500 units. This is the most challenging aspect of the equation because the existing housing stock of wrap around service programs like Mercy Housing or affordable housing units such as La Valentina were primarily funded through state redevelopment dollars. The State Legislature eliminated that funding source in 2011 in sweeping legislation that took tens of millions of locally generated tax dollars from cities, and allowed the state to balance their budget on the backs of local governments.
By expanding the affordable housing ordinance citywide, Councilmember Ashby has led the creation of a new revenue source for low income housing through the City’s Housing Trust Fund. As it builds, this source can be used to expand the continuum of housing by adding affordable workforce housing.
Because we lost redevelopment dollars, our next mayor must work with our current Senator, Dr. Richard Pan — who has endorsed Ashby’s campaign — to identify additional new funding sources for permanent supportive housing.
- Support the Housing First Model: The Housing First Model is a policy that focuses on providing stable permanent housing as the first step out of homelessness and getting individuals off the streets and out of shelters as quickly as possible without required conditions. Once housed, program participants receive services that meet individualized needs identified through tailored assessments.
- Strengthen Partnerships: Strengthen partnerships between the city and county — as well as service providers — to build capacity, reduce costs, and address gaps in service. Last year, Mayor Pro Tem Ashby led an effort to support a women and children’s shelter, doubling their capacity for service by providing them with a one-time contribution of $600,000. Our next mayor must identify additional sources of revenue to build on our existing partnerships.