Housing Chronic Homeless

The folks who camp out in the Parkway for extended periods, creating an unsafe situation for the adjacent community to recreate in the Parkway, and for themselves by being unprotected, have an option and it is slowly being implemented by Sacramento.

Ending homelessness … one person at a time
Shortfall threatens successful city/county venture
By Amy Yannello

For Bill Schield, it’s the small pleasures that mean the most: having a place to build his model airplane (a SlowPoke Sport 40), setting up his own aquarium (“I want freshwater tropical, maybe some eels … no goldfish”), watching The Price Is Right in the morning, having a bed to lie in when his back gets to aching, as it often does.

Schield is one of 171 chronically homeless individuals to be housed and provided with case-management and treatment services through a joint Sacramento city/county Ten Year Plan to End Chronic Homelessness. The plan, which just completed year one, stems from the Ending Chronic Homeless Initiative that set a goal of housing and providing supportive services to 1,600 chronically homeless people by 2017.

Sacramento County officials are confident they can reach the initiative’s goals when it comes to the number of chronically homeless people served and housing units acquired. But they confide to SN&R that they are worried about continued funding for treatment and case-management services people taken off the streets desperately require to remain in permanent housing.

Initiative backers are about $150,000 short of what they’ll need to provide case management to clients through 2009, acknowledged Tim Brown, newly hired director of the initiative.

“The case management is a big gap moving forward,” Brown said. “It will take collaboration on the part of the entire community.”

By collaboration, Brown means money—private money to augment city, county and federal case-management dollars that just aren’t there. Brown said longer-term estimates were still being calculated but could range in the neighborhood of $1.5 million to $2 million annually when all 1,600 people are housed.

Think of case managers as the first line of defense—or offense, whichever is needed—for the formerly homeless person coming off the street, re-entering society. Sometimes called service coordinators, case managers help individuals obtain housing, an income of some kind and links to medical, psychiatric, educational, vocational and drug- and alcohol-treatment services.

As Sacramento Self-Help Housing’s John Foley, one of the initiative’s early partners, explained, the chronically homeless coming off the street need “someone to sit down with them regularly, check in with them and see how they’re doing.” But, as he acknowledged, “There isn’t a lot of money for that now.

“There’s no point in constructing housing for people coming right off the street like this if there’s not going to be any case-management services for them,” Foley continued.

To ensure case-management services continue, Brown must engage in a public-education campaign to raise both awareness and dollars—to make believers out of ordinary Sacramentans for whom the homeless problem, especially in the downtown area, is particularly vexing. And Brown should know. In his former life, he spent six-and-a-half years as executive director for Loaves and Fishes, a successful, if sometimes controversial, homeless-services compound downtown.

About David H Lukenbill

I am a native of Sacramento, as are my wife and daughter. I am a consultant to nonprofit organizations, and have a Bachelor of Science degree in Organizational Behavior and a Master of Public Administration degree, both from the University of San Francisco. We live along the American River with two cats and all the wild critters we can feed. I am the founding president of the American River Parkway Preservation Society and currently serve as the CFO and Senior Policy Director. I also volunteer as the President of The Lampstand Foundation, a nonprofit organization I founded in 2003.
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