Reducing Homelessness THE COUNTY TAKES A COMPREHENSIVE APPROACH By Phil Serna and Patrick Kennedy
ore than two years ago, the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors challenged itself and the county agencies we govern. That’s when board members began making regular and increasingly passionate overtures from the dais. We said things like “What we’re doing is not enough to reduce homelessness” and “We need to do things differently to effect the outcomes we all want.” These statements stemmed from all five of us seeing what our constituents did every day: the person talking to himself in Cesar Chavez Plaza, the huddled figure asleep in a storefront alcove, the growing tent complexes along the American River Parkway. This prompted us to develop a comprehensive and deliberate approach to ameliorate homelessness, the likes of which is unparalleled during our tenure. The following summary explains Sacramento County’s calculated and intensive work in this regard and reflects current measures to reduce homelessness. It is by no means exhaustive, and it denotes only recent developments to augment many well-established and effective county programs in place for years.
THE GRID DEC n 17
FAMILY CRISIS RESPONSE AND SHELTERS This initiative will shelter more families dealing with complex health and behavioral health obstacles, and services will be deployed to rapidly rehouse families into permanent and stable living conditions. Entry into family emergency shelters will be simplified by way of a new electronic bed-reservation system managed by the county’s Department of Human Assistance, and DHA bureaus will serve as entry points to the broader crisis-response system, thereby exposing clients to interim supportive services. This initiative is expected to shelter approximately 268 families each year, and transitional housing opportunities will be expanded for an additional 25 families annually.
PRESERVE MATHER COMMUNITY CAMPUS Facing the loss of significant federal funding for more than 200 residential units serving individuals and families in Volunteers of America’s residential and employment programs, this initiative identifies replacement funding,
including new county General Fund support, to continue operations at Mather Community Campus, one of the region’s most successful models offering comprehensive assistance to formerly homeless individuals. With this funding, MCC will transition residents to stable employment and permanent housing in an environment supportive of drug and alcohol recovery.
FULL-SERVICE REHOUSING SHELTER To reach people experiencing homelessness who are difficult to engage in traditional shelter environments, the county will open innovative low-barrier, full-service sites complete with rehousing, and addiction and mental health services. This approach will serve up to 300 individuals each year and welcome people with pets, partners and possessions—the most common reasons given for refusing help. This first-of-its-kind program is intended as a structured “point of entry” to the county’s broader Homeless Continuum of Care, where people can
stabilize and participate in their own recovery and pursue self-sufficiency.
FLEXIBLE PROGRAM The county is implementing a new Flexible Supportive Rehousing Program that will provide adaptive rehousing and stabilization services to people experiencing long-term homelessness and who frequently utilize expensive county and local hospital services (e.g., emergency rooms and/or jail), but who could, with appropriate assistance, stabilize
THIS APPROACH WILL SERVE UP TO 300 INDIVIDUALS EACH YEAR AND WELCOME PEOPLE WITH PETS, PARTNERS AND POSSESSIONS— THE MOST COMMON REASONS GIVEN FOR REFUSING HELP.