This piece is centered around the #ThisClose2Unhoused Campaign, led by Public Health Advocates (PHA), which is working to promote compassion and compassionate policy solutions for our unhoused neighbors in California.
A quick look at the content of this write-up:
In this piece we will provide you with some policy platforms & talking points around compassionate policy solutions for our unhoused neighbors, created by PHA's wonderful California COVID Justice: Recovery, Response and Repair team. We will also provide some background and context that could be helpful in interactions with folks who may not understand that this crisis is about systematic policy decisions and systemic disenfranchisement – not about individual problems and struggles.
What we know:
Our community is well aware of the housing and homelessness crisis in the City & County of Sacramento, we know the disgusting policy decisions that are being made daily by our elected officials (from the Sac City Council and Sac BOS, to the Sac Sheriff and Sac County DA), as well as our city and county staff (looking at you, Sac City Manager Howard Chan). These decisions threaten, endanger, and kill our unhoused neighbors. We know that so many of our housed neighbors misunderstand the crisis and direct their anger and blame at those living without homes, instead of at those who are keeping people FROM housing.
An introduction to the campaign!
In the past 3 years, amid a deadly pandemic that caused record job loss, homelessness went up by 15 percent in California. Even worse, in Sacramento homelessness went up by 67 percent.
We have a severe shortage of low-income housing which guarantees that many people won’t have a home. Despite this reality, so many of our elected officials talk about unhoused people like they’re less than human and pass inhumane policies. We need compassionate solutions, not sweeps that move people from place to place and make it a crime to be homeless.
We talked with dozens of Californians – mostly Sacramento and Los Angeles residents.
We asked residents who are housed: "If all your income stopped today, how many days would you be from becoming unhoused?"
We asked people who are unhoused to share their experiences, too.
The video below serves to educate the public about the homelessness crisis, while making the case that in our current system, where we lack affordable housing, most of us are at risk of becoming unhoused. Let’s recognize that reality and show compassion.
Please watch the All Hands video and share it with the people you know. It is clear that people in our community need more education on homelessness and more compassion! We need all hands!
Policy and funding solutions developed by the campaign team!
The #ThisClose2Unhoused Campaign team has put together a list of three priority areas of compassionate policy solutions for the unhoused that our local governments should implement immediately. Sacramento City and County received millions of dollars in federal funding through the American Rescue Plan Act to support and meet the needs of folks in our community who were hit the hardest by the COVID pandemic. PHA is calling on our local governments to use their remaining ARPA funds to respond to the needs of our unstably-housed and unhoused neighbors, who were disproportionately impacted by the pandemic.
The graphic below is pulled from the campaign's website & illustrates their recommended policy solutions. Policy solutions recommended by the campaign were developed in partnership with a diverse coalition of experts, including formerly unhoused folks and folks who provide services for our unhoused neighbors & work on policy change.
The website elaborates further on the services & infrastructure that are needed (emphasis added):
People living in protected encampments and safe parking sites need access to food, water and restrooms. These sites should be close to public transportation and to service providers who can provide access to critical resources
Unhoused people often need help getting ID cards and birth certificates, benefits like food stamps, social security, hotel vouchers and transportation vouchers. They also need access to clean clothing, laundry machines, and showers
It is very important to provide services that validate people’s self worth and create opportunities, such as mental health therapy, educational services and employment resources
We don’t need more sweeps that push unhoused people from place to place and make being unhoused a crime.
What's the takeaway?
It's important for us to work together to shift the narrative around our unhoused neighbors. We know the policies being implemented by our local government are not doing anything but exacerbating the crisis, further marginalizing the unhoused, and allowing our elected officials to avoid responsibility and accountability for the lives being destroyed by their actions. We know that policy decisions around homelessness and housing coming out of local government, for the most part, cater to wealthy landowners and corporate interests, NOT to our neighbors living outside. There are countless examples of this. However, the rhetoric around our unhoused neighbors doesn't seem to be changing significantly. Clearly the data on its own is not persuading people to think differently.
However, if we were to begin changing the way people are thinking about our unhoused neighbors, we may start to turn the tide. Promoting and encouraging compassion for our unhoused neighbors is SO important, especially if we're hoping to change minds about what it means to experience homelessness, and about what is needed to heal the wound in our society that is the homelessness crisis. This is a long-term objective and will take continual efforts, but it's crucial to protecting our unhoused community. We need to center compassion in our thinking, conversations, and decision-making around showing up for our unhoused neighbors, and encourage others to do the same! By recognizing everyone’s humanity and focusing on the root cause of the problem, this campaign provides a different narrative. Let’s use it!
The campaign says it best:
Most of us are THIS CLOSE to becoming unhoused. Let’s recognize that reality and act with compassion
What can you do?
As mentioned above, it’s important to watch the All Hands video and share it with the people you know. It is clear that people in our community need more education on homelessness and more compassion!
You can reach out to your elected officials and/or make public comment - we recommend reading through the policy solutions and talking points listed on the #ThisClose2Unhoused Campaign’s website, and utilizing that information to inform your comments
The talking points crafted by PHA emphasize the need to allocate remaining ARPA funds towards specific investments that will help our neighbors in distressing circumstances - making demands around these funds can always be incorporated into any ask you make of our electeds
Read more in-depth talking points