City Beat

Housing, services for Sacramento County homeless get $2.4 million boost

A homeless man named Doug who declined to give his last name, center, and others wait in a warehouse to be bused to a church where they will spend the night protected from the cold at Sac Steps Forward’s Winter Sanctuary Program, Sunday, November 29, 2015.
A homeless man named Doug who declined to give his last name, center, and others wait in a warehouse to be bused to a church where they will spend the night protected from the cold at Sac Steps Forward’s Winter Sanctuary Program, Sunday, November 29, 2015. lsterling@sacbee.com

Sacramento County, the city of Sacramento and Sutter Health are providing a combined $2.4 million to the county’s primary homeless services coordinator for temporary housing and job training programs.

Sacramento Steps Forward will use the money for “rapid rehousing” units for roughly 350 homeless individuals. The program provides short-term rental assistance – for typically between three and nine months – and is geared toward helping homeless individuals whose vulnerability is considered low or medium.

Maya Wallace, director of external affairs for Sacramento Steps Forward, said rapid rehousing is designed to prevent individuals on the street from becoming chronically homeless. Sacramento Steps Forward currently operates 40 rapid rehousing units for families, but none for individuals.

“A safety net catches you before you fall any farther and a trampoline puts you back where you were,” Wallace said. “This is the trampoline.”

The housing is paired with job training programs.

The investment of public and private money in the housing program is another in a recent string of spending decisions made by local agencies trying to boost homeless services in the Sacramento region.

The City Council voted Tuesday night to commit to a $500,000 contract with Sacramento Steps Forward for the rapid rehousing program. Sacramento County agreed earlier in the day to allocate $1 million and Sutter Health is contributing $900,000.

The City Council committed $1.4 million to “shelter, detox and transitional programs” for the homeless in its 2015-16 fiscal year budget. Sacramento County supervisors last month voted to increase the county’s spending on homeless shelters and services by $724,000 – on top of the $17 million the county had already budgeted this year.

In October, the Board of Supervisors in Placer County approved a $265,000 subsidy for a homeless shelter in north Auburn – an unprecedented investment in a fiscally conservative county.

Through October, Sacramento homeless agencies had placed 438 homeless veterans into housing, Ryan Loofbourrow, executive director of Sacramento Steps Forward, told the City Council. Another 350 people classified as chronically homeless had been given housing, he said.

The new investments are being made as the region continues to grapple with a homeless population that has shown no signs of decreasing. Residents and outreach workers are reporting homeless men and women in neighborhoods where they had not been seen in the past, including places like Land Park, Carmichael and North Natomas.

And even with the additional money, officials expect a shortfall of 700 permanent housing units next year that are linked with support services.

“The only answer to homelessness is having a house,” Loofbourrow told the City Council. “The level of human misery on the street is painful. You walk out the door and you can feel it.”

For the first time, Sacramento Steps Forward has conducted extensive surveys of the homeless population to determine its needs and where they the homeless are coming from. A survey of 1,537 homeless men and women found that most of those individuals – 962 throughout Sacramento County – are considered “highly vulnerable.”

Of those surveyed, 58 percent of homeless men and women said they were from Sacramento. Another 11 percent were from the greater Sacramento region.

Ryan Lillis: 916-321-1085, @Ryan_Lillis

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