There is perhaps no more a vexing issue than homelessness in our community. In 2006 we created a ten year plan to end homelessness in our city. Yet, in recent months, it feels very much that the issue has perhaps gotten worse or that little progress has been made.
I share your concerns of safety and your desire to address the issue in a compassionate manner. However, despite the challenges that remain, the City has perhaps never been better positioned or committed to making significant progress around the systemic challenges of homelessness.
While the recent protests at City Hall and videos posted by Anonymous have made headlines in the media, the Council has been taking steps to meet head on the challenges of homelessness.
For the first time in recent memory, a majority of the Council views homelessness as a priority issue.
To that end, the Mayor has appointed Councilmembers Jeff Harris, Steve Hansen and myself to a working group to make sure we, as a City, are doing all we can to address the challenges and that we are working efficiently and effectively with our community partners to create lasting solutions.
As Chair of the working group I have provided direction to evaluate the best short, medium, and long-term solutions available. We plan to hold public meetings, dates to be determined, where we will evaluate best practices from around the country.
One of the questions the working group will be looking to answer is, how can we better collaborate with both public and private agencies as well as the business community? We will seeking the help of Sacramento Steps Forward, the County of Sacramento, the District Attorney, County Jail, SHRA, SETA, RT, the Library system, SACOG, Business Improvement Districts, and many others including the Federal Housing and Urban Development Department.
If we are to have an honest conversation about the challenge, we must be open to ideas and suggestions that may be politically unpopular, including the notion of a SafeGround type model.
I have expressed support for a SafeGround model in the past and still think it may be a able to play a role in answering the question of where do we tell homeless individuals to go if there are no shelter beds available. In February I will be leading a delegation of city staff to learn about the experiences and best practices of Seattle. Providing a safe place for individuals to sleep, when there are no shelter beds, is a complicated and politically challenging issue.
However, lifting the City’s ban on camping is not a solution to homelessness, so if we are to be honest and compassionate, we must be willing to look at every option.
Meeting the current challenge of homelessness will require help from the multitude of community partners and support from the community. This is not a problem for someone else to solve, it is all of ours as a region and as a collective community.
It will not be easy, but I remain eternally hopeful that we are not afraid of having the difficult conversations, making the difficult decisions and doing what is right for everyone in Sacramento.
In addition to his council duties, Jay works as an independent consultant and policy advisor on education reform and youth policy and strategies.