Year One of Sacramento's Ten Year Plan
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Sacramento ’s Ten Year Plan to End Chronic Homelessness was adopted unanimously by Sacramento’s City Council and Board of Supervisors in January of 2007. “Chronic homelessness” is defined as those that have a disabling condition and have been homeless for more than a year or have experienced homeless more than three times in the past three years. Historically, this population was pretty much left out of permanent and transitional housing opportunities, even though they were most in need of housing and use a higher percentage of community resources. It has been hard for many to qualify for housing programs because of strict qualification standards. And studies across the county have shown it less costly to provide housing than to allow them to remain homeless. There has been documented cost savings as much as $10,000 to $16,000 per year per person due to less visits to hospital emergency rooms, the criminal justice system, mental health services, and homeless services.
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The premise is that if this chronic homeless population can be moved directly to permanent supportive housing, then the homeless continuum of care system will have more resources to provide services to the people temporarily caught in homelessness.
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The 10 year plan set out to provide permanent supportive housing for 1,600 individuals that fit the definition of chronically homeless within 10 years. The Housing First philosophy was adopted, where housing is provided to a homeless person without requiring them to meet any qualifications other than in keeping a standard landlord-tenant agreement. The first few years were to focus on scattered-site leased housing. Later on would come construction of permanent supportive housing developments. The permanent housing developments would be less expensive to operate in the long term, while the leased units were something that could be implemented more immediately.
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The 10 year plan has a goal of providing leased housing for 218 chronically homeless individuals in the first three years. So far, 171 leased housing have been provided. There are 140 more leased units expected to be implemented by 2008-2009.
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The plan says that 280 new permanent supportive housing units will be built within five years. A total of 139 units in three projects are expected to be completed at the end of 2008. Five more projects, totaling 162 units for chronically homeless people are in the financing pipeline at SHRA.
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With the help of voter passed Mental Health Services Act, and County Mental Health partnerships with state and local housing finance agencies, nonprofit housing developers and mental health service providers, the County has committed more than $5.4 million to create new permanent supportive housing for homeless and chronically homeless individuals and families. This represents 93 dedicated units with 10-20 to be finalized soon, for homeless individuals with mental health conditions. Turning Point ’s new program “Pathways” is expecting to house up to 250 disabled homeless people in the future. Sacramento Mutual Housing Association will soon have 33 units dedicated for MHSA clients. All these units will be dedicated to homeless individuals with mental health disabilities, but they won’t all necessary fit the definition of “chronically homeless”.
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Governor Schwarzenegger vetoed AB2034, which had provided funding for a successful program that provided housing and services to homeless people with mental health difficulties. Though the county has been trying to retain the mental health services, as of January 2008 50% of 300 slots have been lost.
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A new leadership structure was implemented, consisting of The Policy Board to End Homelessness, the Interagency Council to End Homelessness, ten committees, and a new office for staff and director. Diane Luther was the director for the first year, and just recently Tim Brown has filled the position.
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The plan had a goal of opening a central intake system to screen people to get into housing. The intake system opened for awhile but was closed after being overwhelmed by people who qualified for the housing that was not available.
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Financing for most of the 10 year plan has been identified and is feasible, except there needs to be new funding sources found for enough case management. A committee has been formed to address this deficiency and they have made good progress. Other progress has occurred in the last year with new partnerships and efforts towards helping the homeless population.