There’s no simple solution; homelessness is a complex issue. Every individual is different and needs their own unique approach.
Through its initiatives and its array of services, Sacramento County is finding more ways to help those who need a place to live as well as to break the cycle of chronic homelessness.
“People are not just being sheltered,” explains Cindy Cavanaugh, Sacramento County’s Director of Homeless Initiatives. “They’re moving towards ending their homelessness.”
During these unprecedented times, Sacramento County is working hard to help people experiencing homelessness. COVID-19 adds another layer of complexity.
“COVID has been a challenge, but we were able to respond on a county-wide basis,” Cavanaugh says. “Working with our partners, we added nearly 600 shelter units for those most at risk, provided necessary supplies and sanitation to those living outside, and did proactive testing as well. We are now working on services and rehousing those we’ve brought inside.”
Before the pandemic, Sacramento County already was experiencing an uptick in homelessness. According to the 2019 Sacramento City/County Continuum of Care Point-in-Time Count, an estimated 5,570 people are experiencing homelessness in Sacramento County on any given night – a 19% increase since 2017.
About 70% are unsheltered. Of those 5,570 individuals, 12% are children and 8% are transitional-aged youth, ages 18 to 24. While the county has seen an increase in homelessness overall, the number of people experiencing chronic homelessness decreased, including a 7% drop of those unsheltered. According to the study, about 36 out of every 10,000 Sacramento County residents are experiencing homelessness.
Many of the existing County services and efforts aimed at combating homelessness are not visible or well understood — particularly to those not using them.
“The system of homeless services and support has very few designated points of entry. Navigating the system can be challenging,” says Homeless Services Program Manager Julie Field in the County’s Department of Human Assistance. “We have worked to streamline the ‘front door’ and minimize confusion for persons trying to change their course.”
As the largest provider of social services, Sacramento County offers an array of programs and services aimed at helping individuals and families experiencing homelessness to regain health, income and permanent housing stability. Its sheltering network includes long-established local shelters, dozens of individual homes as well as more than 200 residential units on the Mather campus in Rancho Cordova.
“We’ve heavily invested in rehousing,” Cavanaugh says. “County departments across the spectrum — from public defender to family services, behavioral health to human assistance — are finding new ways to help people leave homelessness more quickly, stabilize and rebuild their lives. This not only serves the individual, but the community at large.”
Sacramento County Department of Human Assistance provides a robust multi-departmental response to homelessness from immediate crisis response services to rehousing, and longer-term stabilizing services that help individuals transition to permanent housing stability.
Eduardo Ameneyro, DHA Homeless Services Division Manager says, “Just through DHA alone, we have more than tripled our homelessness budget and have created a foundation of flexible services and programs that can expand as resources are secured. Increased collaboration among local partners ensures we can cast the widest array of services and serve persons who would otherwise not have received services.”
- CalWORKs Housing Support Program (HSP): Supports CalWORKs recipients experiencing homelessness with obtaining permanent housing. Includes assistance with move-in costs and limited-term rental subsidies.
- Family Homelessness Response and Shelter System: Works to reduce barriers to accessing emergency shelter for families experiencing homelessness by: centralizing registration via an electronic portal; allowing pets; expanding the definition of a family; removing restrictive funding; and removing time limits.
- Mather Community Campus: Provides shelter and transitional housing programs for single adults, families with minor dependent children and Former Foster Care Youth including: Shelter for up to 140 single adults; Transitional Housing for up to 25 families; and Transitional Housing for up to 58 Former Foster Youth with 10 additional units provided off-campus.
- Flexible Supportive Rehousing Program: Provides intensive case management and permanent housing services to 250 frequent users of County jail and Behavioral Health Services.
- Flexible Housing Pool: Provides limited-term intensive case management services and housing services for persons and families experiencing homelessness. Participants of this program are referred in through collaboration with county Departments, local cities, the Continuum of Care and Outreach Navigation services.
- Homeless Prevention and Intervention Services for Transition Age Youth: Provides prevention, diversion and intervention services for youth aged 18-24 years who are homeless or at imminent risk of homelessness.
- Full-Service Rehousing Shelter: Provides shelter, case management and rehousing assistance for up to 115 persons experiencing homelessness, based on referrals.
- North A Street Shelter: Provides outreach and shelter services for 80 individuals in the River District.
- Return to Residency: A bus ticket is provided for persons newly arriving in Sacramento County, faced with homelessness and no means of support. The destination must be the person’s verified place of residency where housing and ongoing support have been confirmed.