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No Simple Solutions

Homelessness is a growing problem that affects all of us across the Capital Region

Back Commentary Oct 14, 2019 By Tom Couzens

Homelessness continues to be a growing issue that affects not just those who are experiencing it, but all of us in the community. No matter how insulated one might be, homelessness is impossible to ignore, and it’s no longer just an issue for Sacramento and other urban centers. More and more people are going to bed each night either outside or in a shelter, and we see it everywhere — along the American River Parkway; in the suburban cities of Elk Grove, Roseville, Folsom and Davis; and in the small rural towns of all 10 counties that make up the Capital Region.

In 2018, 129,972 people in California experienced homelessness on any given day, according to point-in-time counts mandated by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and conducted by the state’s 40 Continuums of Care (planning bodies responsible for coordinating the funding and delivery of housing and services for people experiencing homelessness; some cover more than one county). Nearly one-quarter of the nation’s homeless are in California, according to the 2018 count, and 69 percent of California’s homeless were unsheltered, meaning they lived outdoors — in cars, on streets and in parks. The 2018 count shows 552,830 homeless people in the United States: 111,122 severely mentally ill, 86,647 chronic substance abusers, 48,666 victims of domestic abuse and 37,878 military veterans.

Those numbers are almost certain to increase when the full 2019 count is available. The partial results of January’s count aren’t encouraging. Sacramento County, for example, reported 5,570 homeless people, an increase of 19 percent since 2017. The number of homeless in the Capital Region is roughly 12,000, not including El Dorado County (final figures haven’t been reported) and Amador County (which is part of a four-county Continuum of Care, with three of those outside our coverage area).

In August, the Sacramento City Council made a bold move to address the issue, approving two 100-bed shelters, one under the W-X freeway at X Street and Alhambra Boulevard, and one in the Meadowview neighborhood, at a cost of more than $20 million. “We are going to bring hundreds of people indoors as quickly as possible,” Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg said during the Aug. 27 meeting. But the vote didn’t come without opposition; Councilwoman Angelique Ashby said the city could give the millions to nonprofits already serving homeless women and children and expand funding for the Housing Choice Voucher Program.

We’re not taking a side and don’t proclaim to have better solutions — greater minds have been working hard for years to solve homelessness — but we are sharing this snapshot of what else is being done across the Capital Region in the first of our series addressing challenges facing our region.

Tom Couzens
Executive Editor

Click or tap here to read our Q&A with a panel of experts from across the Capital Region on the issue of homelessness.

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