Three take-aways from this story in the Sacramento Bee are: one, it is good to see local public leadership helping with the count as it helps them understand the devastation of long-term illegal camping in the Parkway as that is one area they conduct the count.
Two, it is obvious there is still much to do about illegal camping in and adjacent to the Parkway.
Three, should the people receiving the grants based on the homeless count be doing the counting?
“Armed with clipboards, volunteers in orange vests – their shoes squishing through muddy trails near the American River Parkway – approached a group of makeshift tents beneath Highway 160.
“That’s no way to be,” said county Supervisor Phil Serna, who for the second time accompanied volunteers on a count of Sacramento’s homeless Thursday night.
“Serna was among hundreds of volunteers who were split up into small groups to visit 50 designated areas in Sacramento County for Sacramento Steps Forward’s biennial homeless count.
“They joined about 3,000 cities and counties across the nation that are doing similar counts required by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, said regional officer Gene Gibson.
“Cars zipped along the Highway 160 bridge and the occasional light-rail train rumbled above the volunteers’ heads. White light shone from their headlamps as they searched for unsheltered individuals – and federal dollars.
“HUD requires that communities do so-called “point in time” surveys of unsheltered people to be eligible for homeless prevention grants, Gibson said.
“Locally, HUD awarded $14.9 million to Sacramento Steps Forward and 14 partner agencies – including the county housing authority and Volunteers for America – in 2011, the most recent period funding data is available.
“Community homeless counts take place at night during the last 10 days in January because it’s easier to identify the homeless who are camping outside, since most other people are indoors, said Nan Roman, CEO of the National Alliance to End Homelessness. The Washington, D.C., advocacy group helped standardize the practice of physically counting people to represent a homeless population.
“It gives us a decent chance of comparing apples to apples from year to year,” she said.
“HUD distributes about $2 billion in homeless grants nationally each year, Roman said.
“The federal agency may use homeless count figures in awarding grants based on formulas, but other grants do not use the data, Gibson said.
“Communities must report their count of unsheltered people to HUD only every other year, because “it’s a major undertaking and is pretty cost-intensive,” she said.
“Thursday’s homeless tally cost Sacramento Steps Forward about $150,000, executive director Ben Burton said.”