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More lackluster housing plans

Thank you so much to Sarah Rabanales, our Sac State intern, for this detailed write-up! Read more about Sarah by clicking here. Aaaaand one more thank you to one of our SJPC Counselmembers for adding even more insights to this piece!

On June 14th, the Sac Board of Supervisors once again came together to listen to yet another presentation on homelessness. The plan in question this time was the Sacramento Local Homeless Action Plan (linked here). Following the presentation the Board adopted the plan, and voted unanimously to approve the Department of Human Assistance to apply for and accept grant funding from the Homeless, Housing, Assistance and Prevention (HHAP) Grant in order to pursue the goals outlined in the report.

What does that mean?

Basically, in order for the Continuum of Care (description above - website page linked here), City, and County to get HHAP funding, this Action Plan needed to be created. It’s just a guide for all three entities to follow in order to eventually "end homelessness" or at least make it so that it’s only a brief occurrence for those who experience it.

So, why mention this decision?

Although funding for the issue of homelessness is great, we tend to see this money mishandled and not used the ways the community needs. This action plan was created using Gap Analysis, which determines what service gaps are left after accounting for the annual amount of people experiencing ‘literal’ homelessness (living in their cars or unsheltered, but does NOT count couch surfing), and estimates both the annual service needs, and the current service capacity.

The analysis concluded that annually in Sacramento county, 15,000-20,000 people experience homelessness at some point.

This conclusion informed the development of the action plan, which includes the following 5 strategies to combat homelessness:

Strategy 1: Build and Scale a Countywide Coordinated Access System (CAS)

Strategy 2: Ensure Current and New Emergency Shelter and Interim Housing is Focused on Rehousing

Strategy 3: Increase Permanent Housing Opportunities

Strategy 4: Expand Prevention and Diversion Resources

Strategy 5: Invest in Community Capacity-Building and Training.

Some important findings and graphics can be found in the slides below! The slide deck from Sacramento Steps Forward is linked here.

One concern is that Sac Steps Forward (description in graphic below) or the CoC, the City and the County are all deciding separately how they’re going to spend their HHAP money which means they’re not collaborating, and resources aren’t being shared.

The CoC is focused on using the money for system support and for providing significant resources for coordinated access to clients. Danielle Foster (Housing Policy Manager) from the City said that the City is investing it’s HHAP funding in *continuing* existing shelter programs for the general population and youth, and also looking at using funding for homelessness prevention. Note - it is critical that we find out whether or not "prevention" means financial assistance for renters and homeowners. The City didn’t address how they’re going to support the coordinated access component of the plan and that’s a big deal.

Also concerning is that the City's incoming funding is only going to sustain their current shelter capacity. We need to fight to include rental and utility assistance and basic anti-displacement program in funding decisions.

The County is similarly using HHAP funding for shelter services

(County's spending plan below).

The reality is that the impact of homelessness has a disproportionate impact on our most vulnerable communities, which was actually stated well in this Sac County news alert (linked here) about the adoption of this Plan:

While persons identifying as Black only represent 11% of the population in our CoC’s geographic area, they represent approximately 39% of individuals who are experiencing homelessness and approximately 39% of families with children experiencing homelessness have a Black head of household. Additionally, local data reflecting persons identifying as American Indian/Alaskan Native are not accessing homeless services in proportion to the number of people believed to be experiencing homelessness from that community.

Although the strategies named in this plan seem to reflect what is needed for vulnerable communities, the reality is that this action plan isn’t enough and it is not the solution the community is looking for OR needs.

Strategies to deal with the homelessness crisis should look first to prevent homelessness, rather than continuing to slap temporary band-aid solutions on recurring crises. They should also look to fund (and build if needed) permanent low to no-income housing for families, individuals, anyone who is facing homelessness. Although what was proposed in this Plan seems like it may help the current crisis Sacramento is facing, it is just a surface level action plan. What the community needs at this time is aggressive action to deal with the issue of homelessness.

Regardless, the Board of Supervisors ignored public needs and voted to approve the HHAP funding for approximately $7.76 million without revisions or recommendations to the Action Plan. The point of this post is to continue urging community members to speak up about our community needs and requests, without public comments or letters the BOS will continue to vote for surface level solutions without disruption. It is our job TO disrupt and criticize their decisions in order to be heard.

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