Soapbox

Another View: Director will coordinate county’s homeless efforts

Sister Libby Fernandez with Sacramento Loaves & Fishes, left, and Sacramento City Council Member Jeff Harris, center, tour a Seattle tent city for the homeless on Feb. 29. Sacramento County is hiring a new director to coordinate its programs on the homeless.
Sister Libby Fernandez with Sacramento Loaves & Fishes, left, and Sacramento City Council Member Jeff Harris, center, tour a Seattle tent city for the homeless on Feb. 29. Sacramento County is hiring a new director to coordinate its programs on the homeless. lsterling@sacbee.com

The Sacramento Bee’s editorial characterizing Sacramento County’s creation of a director of homeless initiatives as more bureaucracy showed a lack of full understanding of the complex homeless situation (“Bureaucracy is not the solution to homelessness,” March 24).

The editorial’s worry that this job is just another cook in a crowded kitchen of stakeholders underestimates the size of the kitchen and what is required to manage it.

Helping the homeless get off the streets permanently is too big a task for any one organization. Sacramento Steps Forward does a great job as the lead agency for coordinating service providers and managing federal funding, but it cannot replace the sizable role of local government on this issue.

Sacramento County will always be a key partner in this effort. We are the single largest provider of social services in the region, providing more than $40 million annually to fund and provide direct services for mental health care, substance abuse treatment, job training, housing, employment and more.

We agree that Housing First is an essential solution to homelessness; however, it is local government that is responsible for coordinating policies and programs to make housing available. Housing “first” does not mean housing “only.” Providing shelter is only a start to keeping people from returning to the streets. To be successful, they need all of the supportive services that the county and others provide.

The new director will coordinate the county’s homeless investments, making sure that our programs and funding are aligned for results. No other issue involves so many departments: the sheriff, health and human services, human assistance, probation, code enforcement, regional parks, waste management, animal care, transportation and water resources. It requires someone’s full attention to ensure everyone is working together and coordinating with nonprofits and cities so that taxpayers are getting the most out of every dollar.

The director of homeless initiatives will help the Board of Supervisors determine spending priorities to improve services and develop creative, effective intervention options. This position will complement Sacramento Steps Forward and other agencies while helping the county contribute even more to finding long-term solutions.

Roberta MacGlashan is chairwoman of the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors and can be contacted at macglashanr@saccounty.net. Don Nottoli is vice-chairman and can be contacted at nottolid@saccounty.net.

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