The Bee’s editorial “Leaders dither, homeless shiver” (Nov. 23) rightfully raises awareness of the region’s most visible and vexing social dilemma – the need to address homelessness in Sacramento County. While we all agree that more should be done, characterizing the county’s efforts as “dithering” does a disservice to the homeless community. As the area’s largest contributor of funding and services, Sacramento County is a leader in addressing homelessness.
The county contributes millions every year for emergency housing including shelters for homeless youths, victims of domestic violence and abused seniors, and to the development of supportive, transitional and permanent housing. The county invests millions to finance housing and rental subsidies for homeless persons.
Sacramento County helped create Sacramento Steps Forward to facilitate community management of homeless issues. We also funded and participated in the Regional 10-Year Plan to End Chronic Homelessness; however, with dramatic changes in the homeless population and best practices, it’s essential we develop an updated plan that addresses these changes, including increased emphasis on rapid rehousing.
Housing is a critical piece of the issue but represents only one aspect of serving the homeless. A comprehensive system is needed to address mental and physical health, substance abuse, post-traumatic stress, domestic violence, education, job training, and cash and food assistance. Sacramento County is the largest regional provider of these services.
The county has demonstrated a nimble responsiveness to partners when they’ve needed it most. Examples include contributions to WIND, Senior Safe House, Salvation Army and Winter Sanctuary when funding shortfalls threatened critical services. County responsiveness has been instrumental in maintaining and improving services for homeless residents, and is championed by staff and a committed Board of Supervisors.
Solutions to assisting the homeless population are as complex and diverse as the people who suffer homelessness. It’s not one solution fits all, nor is it a county or city issue: It’s a regional issue we all need to address together. Our collaboration with Sacramento Steps Forward is a model that reflects community intent and is appropriately being managed by the community.
While the county is the region’s largest partner, with a full portfolio of emergency shelter, outreach, health, mental health, social service and housing responsibilities, we cannot do it alone. Far from “dithering,” the county’s annual budgetary commitments, regional partnerships and willingness to respond when services are threatened represent the kind of leadership needed to address homelessness.
Bradley J. Hudson is the executive officer of Sacramento County.