Each year Sacramento County Coroner Kimberly Gin releases statistics from the previous year in relation to deaths reported in the general population, as well as involving persons experiencing homelessness.
In 2017, Sacramento County experienced an overall rise in death among the general population – nearly 500 more deaths than reported in 2016. In recent years, Sacramento County has seen a sharp rise in the overall homeless population and that is reflected in the increase in homeless deaths – 124 deaths in 2017, a rise from the 78 in 2016. And older populations, persons aged 40 to 70 years, were the most represented in the deceased population.
“We are saddened for each life lost and, in particular, to see this years’ increase in deaths for persons experiencing homelessness. We know the Sacramento community is dedicated and working hard to deliver essential services to our homeless population and the County remains a committed partner in these efforts. The County’s most recent investments are aimed at reaching people who are not engaging in services and who are particularly vulnerable with the goal of ensuring safety and essential services while homeless and facilitating the return to permanent housing as quickly as possible,” said Director of Homeless Initiatives Cindy Cavanaugh. “Our county staff and service providers are committed to expanding the early success we are seeing in our new initiatives so that, with the right assistance, every person finds their way to a home and better health as quickly as possible.”
While Sacramento County has long been committed to providing impactful services to persons experiencing homelessness - ranging from outreach and engagement to behavioral health services, to sheltering and re-housing assistance -expanded services and new approaches were launched beginning in early 2018. Beginning with the 2017/18 budget, the Board of Supervisors increased its annual investments by more than $11 million for the County Homeless Initiatives and committed an additional $44 million over three years to persons at risk or experiencing homelessness with a serious mental illness.
In addition to improving the existing family crisis response system and continuing the employment and recovery programs offered in transitional housing at Mather Community Campus, the new programs launched this year are designed to engage and re-house individuals with some of the highest challenges:
• Full Service Re-Housing Shelter provides temporary shelter on scattered sites for up to 75 people at a time (250 to300 served annually), with intensive rehousing and supportive services. The program has been up and running since March 2018 and is currently sheltering 36 people. County partners are still securing additional housing sites. There is a 24-hour house monitor on-site and entry into the program is by referral only – typically from the Sheriff Homeless Outreach Team (HOT) or social workers targeting long term homeless and highly vulnerable persons.
• Flexible Supportive Re-housing Program (FSRP) provides highly flexible re-housing and stabilization services to persons who have experienced long-term homelessness, typically persons with complex health and behavioral health conditions. Through contracted providers, the County is engaging the top 250 users of County behavioral health services and County jail and is offering long-term intensive case management and housing supports. The program launched in February 2018 and all 250 users have been assigned to case managers, 159 are enrolled in the program and 16 participants have been permanently housed, including the top user of these County services.
• Investment in Youth. The County has also recognized that there is a specific need to target transition age youth (18 to 24 years old) in hopes of improving lives early and preventing long-term homelessness. This population is incredibly vulnerable as they attempt to make a life of their own. In this initiative, Wind Youth Services is providing prevention, diversion and intervention services to transition age youth who are homeless or at risk of homelessness. Currently there are 43 participants in the program – 21 in housing, nine were diverted from homelessness and five are in interim housing.
• Expanded navigation services. Recognizing the need to engage unsheltered populations, the County recently expanded navigation services through Sacramento Self-Help Housing. Partnering with community organizations and law enforcement in unincorporated county regions – specifically Carmichael, Rio Linda, South Sacramento and Arden Arcade – unsheltered persons are connected to crisis response services, including re-housing assistance.
A fuller description of the County’s newer initiatives and updates on progress, as well as ongoing programs can be found at Sacramento County’s Responding to Homelessness webpage.