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.