Council discusses regional approach to addressing homelessness

The City Council is considering whether the city of Sacramento will join in the creation of a public-private collaborative agency to address the problems of homelessness in the region – an issue that does not recognize political boundaries.

Representatives from the city Neighborhood Services Department and the county Department of Human Assistance presented a report to the City Council Tuesday outlining a plan for creating a joint powers authority to align city and county governments with a nonprofit entity.

“The JPA would be the overarching policymaking body,” Sacramento county spokeswoman Kerri Aiello said Tuesday. “Sacramento Steps Forward (a nonprofit corporation) will ultimately be the umbrella over program implementation.”

In any given month in Sacramento, there are more than 3,000 people without homes, according to Ben Burton, executive director for Sacramento Steps Forward. That number includes people in emergency or transitional housing.

Of that number, Burton said more than 1,000 are actually on the street each night.

At one time, the county administered all government-funded homeless programs for the city and county, Burton said, and recent budget cuts have left homeless programs for Sacramento severely lacking in funding.

“When the funding ended, we had to ask ‘what do we do now?’ “ Burton said. “We start looking for additional dollars now.”

SafeGround representative John Kraintz said Tuesday that the goal of the JPA/nonprofit collaboration would be to maximize the ability to secure funding grants from the greatest variety of sources.

“Some programs have to be administered through the government to get public grant funds,” Kraintz said. “And nonprofits have a better ability to get private dollars.”

A nonprofit can access private funding more quickly than government, and some government funding can only be accessed by a government entity like a JPA.

Aiello said that certain homeless dollars – primarily Housing and Urban Development funds – can only be applied for by a government agency, and that would be one role of the JPA part of the partnership.

Another benefit of a combined JPA/nonprofit effort is the ability for many jurisdictions to share data and work together to plan regionally, Derrick Lim, Neighborhood Services manager, said Tuesday.

“It’s still in the conceptual phase right now,” Lim said. “The whole point is to have everyone in every jurisdiction sharing the same information.”

Representatives from regional City Councils and the Board of Supervisors would comprise a JPA Board whose role would be to accept grants that are only available to public agencies.

The JPA Board would award those funds to the nonprofit agency to administer. The JPA Board would also advise on major policy goals and serve as the community’s voice on the issue of homelessness, according to the report.

According to the report to the City Council, the Sacramento County Department of Human Assistance was the primary administrator of homeless programs in Sacramento since 1993. The city of Sacramento relied on the county to coordinate and administer programs on behalf of the city.

By the end of 2010, the DHA no longer had funding available to administer homeless programs as it had been doing, Aiello said.

“Everyone went broke, and the county pulled out of all their homeless projects,” local homeless advocate Tracie Rice-Bailey said Tuesday. “Now they are trying to put together this umbrella nonprofit to find how many ways they can keep roofs over people’s heads.”

In September 2010, the Sacramento City Council and county Board of Supervisors started discussing a conceptual plan to create a new public-private structure to end homelessness.

In March, the City Council approved transitioning the administration of homeless programs in the city away from the county DHA to Sacramento Steps Forward.

Sacramento county DHA staff have been presenting the JPA proposal to other city councils in the county and the Board of Supervisors to get feedback and ideas for the structure of the potential JPA.

“(County Department of Human Assistance director) Paul Lake has been out to Elk Grove, Rancho Cordova, Citrus Heights, Folsom and other areas of the county,” Aiello said.

The response to the idea has been positive, according to Lake.

“Other cities are very enthusiastic and want to move forward,” Lake told council members Tuesday.

Councilman Kevin McCarty said he is in favor of the proposed JPA structure for dealing with homeless issues in Sacramento.

“Bottom line: Regional solutions are needed here,” McCarty said Wednesday. “The more local governments teaming up and partnering to tackle homelessness, the better.”

The initial target date for having a JPA in place was July, but Lake said the date had to be adjusted because they needed more time to allow Sacramento Steps Forward to assume responsibility for managing grants.

“Neither the county nor Sacramento Steps Forward want to transfer responsibility until it can be a wholly successful transfer,” Lake said Wednesday. “We are hopeful that Sacramento Steps Forward will begin assuming (grant responsibility) early in 2012.”

Ben Burton, the new executive director for Sacramento Steps Forward, said Wednesday that this as an opportunity for creating a more innovative approach to homelessness.

“Once the (JPA) program is implemented,” Burton said, “we will put an agenda together to begin regional planning. It will start with an assessment of where we are today.”

Burton said it is essential that the multitude of jurisdictions in the region – cities, counties and private community agencies – start sharing data and local plans to address homelessness issues.

“This type of planning will strengthen our competition for federal dollars to provide services,” Burton said. “It’s cheaper to prevent homelessness than to take someone through the whole system.”

The City Council didn’t take any action on the proposal report Tuesday.

DHA and city staff will take the proposal to the county Board of Supervisors for discussion and feedback in December, Aiello said. A draft JPA agreement is expected to follow soon after.

Melissa Corker is a Staff Reporter for The Sacramento Press. Follow her on Twitter @MelissaCorker.

Conversation Express your views, debate, and be heard with those in your area closest to the issue. RSS Feed

November 3, 2011 | 12:18 PM

As co-creator with Midtown Business Association Sacramento County and Cities Homeless Board, I predict a JPA will produce little results except under conditions that I’ll detail later. City Council and a small amount of funding from the County Board of Supervisors supported the Homeless board. Our goal was to end homelessness countywide

Our mistake was to include Homeless Providers on the board as voting members because they immediately objected to the goal. We were forced to revise the goal to “mitigate” homelessness. Their reason was that the goal was impossible to meet. We felt if we set the goal high (as you would do for your children’s achievement or a coach sets for his/her teams), we would achieve better results i.e. low goals strongly suggest lack of confidence or ability to achieve a goal.

Encountering one roadblock after another, we finally proposed that homeless service centers be set up close to where the homeless were originating. A primary advantage was clients would not be forced to leave their familiar surroundings and support systems only to be stranded and over concentrated in the area around L&F. We wanted to pattern the centers after the very successful Veterans Resource Center located off Florin and 99.

This garnered city and county staff support BUT council members were silent and suburban county supervisors objected—“don’t have homeless in my area,” the late Supervisor Cox objected to me. Most influential were board member homeless providers who voted it down. Why? Could the reason have been that it would have reduced the number of their clientele by diverting more of the money to temporary housing and rehabilitating homeless than to their own “non-profit” operations (staffing and overhead)?

Why do I ask that? Because when Bush’s 10-year plan to END homelessness was implemented the providers who were to receive the bulk of the funds (no longer the county) did not feel “ending homelessness” was unrealistic. They now all jumped on the bandwagon enthusiastically! Further, we had also suggested that some of the federal homeless funds be used to set up a “homeless hot line” for individuals who were facing losing their housing to call for preventive services. That too was voted down BUT when the current administration added funds for a plan to prevent homelessness, again the homeless providers were right there with open mouths.

The survey should have been worded, “Will the JPA result in fewer homeless being on the streets and more in permanent housing.” That mission is “results oriented” (which we also failed to get). UNLESS THAT is the focus and providers are forced to be accountable to comply with specific performance requirements and goals for placing homeless in housing with oversight monitoring to their data collection, there is little hope for change, or so my experience tells me.

November 3, 2011 | 8:36 PM

I have a problem from the getgo with this article: What is the notion, in the first paragraph, “an issue that does not recognize political boundaries” supposed to mean?

This isn’t the 1980s; we homeless don’t “ride the rails.” We, more than the top 99%, are stuck in one general locale. It is a profound absurdity to suggest that we are less within political boundaries than any other people, OR that it should be under consideration that we [many of whom are voters] should be denied political representation as much as any other people.

A prime problem we have now is that our “political organizations” in our region shirk their obligations to the poorest of the poor. But I am not talking here mostly about money. They — and in that I mostly mean Kevin Johnson — utterly wasted a million dollars in the winter of 08-09 extended the wretched VOA’s Winter Shelter that took up 16 hours of homeless people’s day and was literally [as homeless people can attest to] run by unsupervised hoodlums. These hoodlums would dash in hiding when the police cruised by the pick-up area, lest they get picked up on warrants.

Listen. In good times, money gets burned in a pile. Now that we are in bad times, a prime responsibility of local government gets shirked because the homeless are powerless, providing little to the politicians in the way of campaign money. STILL, we homeless are not gypsies; we demand political representation that all citizens are entitled to.

I aver that it is grotesque to fop us homeless off on religious organizations, as is the reality of the plan talked about in the article — just as it is properly unlawful to fop school children off into the lap of Catholic monks or nuns. There is a separation of church and state in this once-great nation AND a continuing right to political representation, however malodorous the politicians are.

Secondly, Sacramento Steps Forward is a nightmare — even on its own terms. They are in the business of trying to panic the public into sending them money. They have been using a countdown of days, and have a sign on the homepage of their website — http://sacramentostepsforward.org/ — that says “URGENT! Winter Shelter Funding Needed,” when in reality there are grants in the pipeline and there is a lot of time. This is a post to SacStepsForwards Facebook page that proves the nefarious practices of Ben Burton: http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-sKgHgfhasro/Tpe6FPDYSaI/AAAAAAAABq8/9jB0cHdFy6o/s1600/Erlenbusch%2Bquote.JPG
As you can see, Erlenbusch [a muckamuck on their board] says “it would be nice to have [the money sought] by the end of the year.” It’s not URGENT to have it in days, per their dishonest email campaign. See http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-Jqhc1lPITEo/TpiO6oTZhNI/AAAAAAAABrE/AyMmrfT-Q8E/s1600/37days.JPG
The homeless community, in addition to need of protection from the homeless-services industy, as Dale Kooyman suggests in his comment above, also need protection from Ben Burton and Sacramento Steps Forward.

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