Supervisor Frost’s Report on Homeless Program

Excellent report, with the sad, but expected, results; from her Facebook page.

In full.

“While I know COVID-19 is on all our minds right now, I wanted to share some news with you about a homeless program that I spearheaded that I have been writing about over the past two years.

“In March 2018 I wrote on this facebook page outlining why I thought Sacramento County was in need of a work program for people who are homeless. In March 2019 I put theory into reality and officially rolled out a one-year trial program that would not only employ people who are homeless but also work to beautify Sacramento County at the same time. I promised you that after the trial was completed, I would report back on how effective the program was.

“I am sad to report that the program ended largely in failure – but we did learn some important lessons. I want to take this opportunity to explain to you why it failed, and what we learned. But before that, I want to give you a refresher on exactly how the program functioned.

“40 homeless people were planned to be identified who were both willing to work and be clean from drugs and alcohol. Shelter would be secured for them, and they would clean the American River Parkway for minimum wage pay in the morning, and go through a job training program in the construction industry in the afternoon. After leaving the program they would then get help in finding employment by getting introduced to employers, being placed in internships, and receiving certificates that enable them to earn more than minimum wage.

“Unfortunately, we were only able to get 8 people out of a goal of 40 enrolled in the program, with even less graduated. By far the biggest reason for this failure was because the people in our program could not stay off drugs. Not only could they not stay clean, but we couldn’t even find people who wanted to try getting clean. And we aren’t talking just about drugs like marijuana, we are talking about extremely dangerous drugs like methamphetamine and crack cocaine. There were other problems with the program as well, such as showing up to work on time and a hesitance to work specifically in the construction industry. But those problems paled in comparison to the drug abuse.

“The last official homeless count done less than a year ago showed that Sacramento County has over 5,500 homeless people living within our borders. And out of those 5,500, we could only find 8 who were willing to be drug-free. This is a startling statistic and one that has caused me to learn two important lessons from this endeavor.

“The first lesson I learned is that we must solve the underlying problems that homeless people have before we can work on job training. It is a wasted effort and a drain on the taxpayers for no benefit. We have to solve their drug and alcohol dependence before we can expect them to responsibly hold down a job.

“The other lesson I learned is that the data we receive from the federally mandated point-in-time homeless survey cannot be trusted. In the most recent iteration of that survey from 2019, the data told us that only 9% of homeless people claim alcohol or drugs prevents them from keeping a job or maintaining stable housing. An article in one Sacramento paper even claimed this data proves it is a “Myth” that homeless people all use drugs. At the time I severely questioned this data, but now I know for certain that it is faulty.

“Even though this program itself was not successful, I am still glad that we did it and think there is great value to learning the lessons that we have. I also take great personal issue with new government programs that are started and turn out to be ineffective, yet get funded for eternity – so I am happy that we have quickly changed directions once we found out things weren’t working.

“I still believe that finding jobs for people who are homeless is an important piece to this overall problem that we are not looking close enough at. But I now realize with much greater clarity that there are bigger problems we have to get a handle on first.”

Retrieved April 1, 2020 from https://www.facebook.com/SupervisorFrost/posts/538975183691955?__tn__=K-R

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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