Sacra Bee Editorial: New partnership needed for homeless
Published Thursday, Sep. 16, 2010
Services for the homeless in Sacramento County are at a critical crossroads.
The county, which cut its winter shelter program last year and is still stuck in budget-slashing mode, now says it can no longer afford the staff costs to oversee $28 million a year in federal, state and other public grants that support 30 homeless programs and 3,000 beds.
But in the crisis, there's also opportunity: With cooperation and smarts, what could emerge is a system that brings together public and nonprofit agencies, that is financially feasible for the long term and that ends up more efficiently providing better services.
That goal is well worth pursuing.
Both county supervisors and City Council members were briefed Tuesday and will consider more specific recommendations later this year. As supervisors unanimously agreed to move forward, however, several council members were skeptical of taking on what has been the county's traditional role in charge of social services. That concern needs to be hashed out, but shouldn't be a deal-breaker.
As usual, the biggest stumbling block is money – specifically where to get the $1.2 million a year for staffing that the county has been paying. The county is looking for $360,000 to bridge the gap from March until July, when the new system is supposed to be in place. If that isn't solved, federal money could be lost.
City and county officials and leaders of Sacramento Steps Forward, the primary nonprofit on homelessness, are leading the effort to devise the new countywide or regional joint powers authority/public-private partnership.
Whatever the setup, it needs to tap the energy of all the nonprofits, business groups and others who care about the homeless. Their efforts have already produced noteworthy progress since the city and county in 2006 committed to a 10-year plan to end homelessness. By last year, the number of chronic homeless had been cut by more than a third. In May, a fundraising effort centered in the faith community exceeded a $400,000 goal.
A new public-private partnership is the "next step," says Mayor Kevin Johnson. He points to Columbus, Ohio, where a group from Sacramento recently visited a nonprofit that is in charge of homeless programs. "We have a chance to be a leader on this," he told council colleagues.Sacramento does, but it's going to be hard work to get there.
Many local non-profits, such as the Salvation Army and Volunteers of America, often have a profit motive in helping the homeless, especially now that County Budget cutbacks for shelter services are now in effect in the City-County of Sacramento. All non-profit employees should be paid minimum wage from the Director on down.
We need to assess the homeless themselves, find out what their skills and talents are, then mobilize them to help themselves like Habitat for Humanity. We have great natural resources, the homeless themselves, that are just going to waste. Use your imagination people!
Unidos Venceremos! United We Will Win!
PETER S. LOPEZ AKA: Peta-de-Aztlan
"An invasion of armies can be resisted, but not an idea whose time has come."
~ Victor Hugo