Sacramento Steps Forward released a new report Monday that provides the sobering confirmation that, just as in other major cities across our state, the number of homeless people has increased significantly in our county over the past two years.
The total number has gone up by 30 percent to 3,665; the number living on the street has risen by 85 percent to 2,052.
While the increases may not come as a surprise, it is deeply disappointing because it’s despite Sacramento’s success in housing 2,232 people in 2016. Simply put, our efforts were not enough to stop the rising tide of homelessness.
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Opinions about how we got here will be discussed and debated at length. But according to the report and the experience of homeless services providers, a regionwide housing shortage is a major contributor.
According to Colliers International, Sacramento is leading the nation in annual rent growth, driving the average cost of an apartment to a record $1,249 a month. The Sacramento Association of Realtors estimates that home prices have risen to pre-recession levels with a median price of $342,500. This may be affordable for Bay Area transplants, but for Sacramento natives, those prices are unfathomable.
Now the question is where we go from here.
The good news is that as a region we are already looking for answers. Sacramento County and the city of Sacramento have independently launched multimillion dollar initiatives aimed at helping people who cost the taxpayers the most by frequently using public services. The Sacramento County sheriff, district attorney, Regional Transit and Rancho Cordova have created multidisciplinary teams to help those most in need. Citrus Heights and Elk Grove partner with service providers who have been committed to ending homelessness for decades.
Business improvement districts are serving their neighborhoods by contracting for street outreach navigators, while houses of worship have created a winter shelter program during Sacramento’s coldest, wettest months.
Health care leaders – including Dignity Health, Kaiser Permanente, Sutter Health and UC Davis Medical Center – made significant contributions to help the city of Sacramento fund a comprehensive response to homelessness. Sutter Health has invested millions to create Getting to Zero, a regional campaign to end homelessness in Sacramento, Placer and Yolo counties.
Effectively addressing homelessness in our community does not seem to be a lack of commitment or effort, but a lack of regional planning and coordination. As we have seen from Getting to Zero, collaboration allows us to build on the success and innovation of our partners, solve problems across jurisdictions, eliminate unnecessary duplication and to direct the passion and resources where they are needed most.
Collaboration is our best hope. If we are successful, we can address the housing shortage and the significant cost of frequent users of public services. We can help the most vulnerable.
Ryan Loofbourrow is CEO of Sacramento Steps Forward, a nonprofit homeless service agency. He can be contacted at email@example.com.