According to the 2017 U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Annual Homeless Assessment Report (AHAR) to Congress, a report detailing national and state level estimates of homelessness, chronically homeless persons, homeless veterans, and homeless children and youth, there are an estimated 553,742 people in the United States experiencing homelessness on any given night.  This means that for every 10,000 people in the general population, 17 had no permanent form of traditional shelter or housing, principally living in a place not meant for human habitation – on the street or in an abandoned building.

The numbers for Sacramento County are just as discouraging.  According to a 2019 survey conducted by Sacramento Steps Forward, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that partners with local, state, and federal agencies to accomplish the shared goal of ending homelessness, 5,570 people experience homelessness on any given night in our county, an increase of 19% from the previous survey two years prior.

Fortunately, we have an opportunity today to start a course correction with regards to our most vulnerable and disadvantaged population.  As the former Mayor and twenty-five-year Sacramento resident, I have formally announced my candidacy for the District 5 seat on the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors.  As our county grapples with increasing economic inequality and significant poverty, homelessness represents both a challenging political and policy issue.  In this respect, it is critical that we have experienced leaders who not only understand the underlying causes but can bring an entrepreneurial creativity to the solutions.  I have worked with the homeless population within our Sacramento community for over a quarter of a century, a level of experience unmatched by any of my competitors.  My unique insight and empathetic approach to the issue of homelessness in our community will provide an opportunity for many to escape the shadows of despair.

Housing First is a recovery-oriented homelessness initiative rooted in the philosophy that all people have an inherent right to permanent housing, and that adequate housing is a precondition for getting off the streets.  The fundamental model for Housing First initiative centers on moving those living in shelters or on the streets into independent and permanent housing; as well as providing additional support for physical and mental health, education, employment and substance abuse.  The Housing First initiative is based on the proposition that those in a more stabilized environment are more able to positively move their lives forward.

This is an initiative I support for our Sacramento community, because it is an approach that can benefit both homeless families and individuals with any degree of continuum service needs (for example, addiction or mental health).  It is likewise flexible and responsive enough to be custom designed to help anyone in need.

There is growing evidence demonstrating that Housing First is an effective, practical and cost-effective solution to ending homelessness.  Initiatives that invest in this type of permanent supportive housing model have helped decrease the number of chronically homeless individuals by 8% since 2007.  In addition, these types of creative initiatives have been shown to improve mental and physical health and lower public costs associated with the use of crisis services such as shelters, hospitals, jails and prisons.

Despite the conventional narrative, homelessness is not a criminal issue and the solution to homelessness cannot be resolved through the criminal justice system.  Addressing homelessness in Sacramento County takes the type of political will and fortitude that I believe I can offer.  It’s high time we stop talking about our homelessness problem and start solving it.


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