Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Plan Can Work

The only issue we have had with this plan, as it is being adopted by Sacramento, is that of the two types of homeless housing that can be used, centralized or scattered, they seem to have settled on centralized.

We would prefer the scattered as it doesn’t create the large homeless community congregation of the centralized approach that often leads to serious problems, especially with the surrounding neighborhood.

The scattered approach sprinkles the housing throughout the community by renting units from landlords, and bringing the services to the homeless rather than providing them on-site as the centralized approach does.

Given that caveat, this plan can work here as it has worked elsewhere.

An excerpt.

City, county officials approve 10-year plan to aid homeless
By Jocelyn Wiener - Bee Staff WriterPublished 12:00 am PDT Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Sacramento city and county leaders on Tuesday unanimously approved a plan they hope will end chronic homelessness within the next decade.

Unanimity over the plan extended to an array of business leaders and advocates for the poor who spoke Tuesday at meetings of the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors and the City Council.

An estimated 1,600 chronically homeless individuals -- all suffering from some sort of mental illness, physical disability or substance abuse problem -- live on Sacramento County's streets and riverbanks and in its cars and shelters. They make up about 10 percent of the overall homeless population, but use about 50 percent of money spent on that population, said Bruce Wagstaff, director of the county's Department of Human Assistance.

Traditionally, the chronic homeless have been the hardest group to reach. Officials said Tuesday their efforts to fix the problem have so far fallen short.

"This will be a day we will mark as a turning point in Sacramento's efforts to address this issue," Dickinson said.

The centerpiece of the "10-Year-Plan to End Chronic Homelessness" is a "housing first" approach -- placing the priority on housing, and then providing mental health or substance abuse services.

Today, in order to get housing, the homeless are often expected to kick illegal drugs or alcohol, or consistently take their psychiatric medication. Those requirements can seem nearly impossible to people living on the streets, said Sister Libby Fernandez, executive director of Loaves & Fishes.

"Whether someone is paranoid schizophrenic or whether someone is using drugs, that's their environment and it's very difficult to get out of that environment," she told City Council members Tuesday. With the "housing first" model, she said, "you welcome and invite those people to get a new environment, a safe environment where opportunity for change can occur."

To that end, the 10-year-plan promises about 500 units to house the chronic homeless over the next five years. The plan also calls for social services to supplement the housing. In the past 3 1/2 years, 224 cities and counties across the nation have moved toward similar plans, in part because of a federal initiative that encourages them to do so, said Philip Mangano, point man in the Bush administration on homelessness. Four years ago, only Indianapolis had a 10-year-plan.