Monday, September 13, 2010

Homelessness & County Government

It is sad to see—as reported by the Sacramento Bee—the dissolving of a once prosperous local government and its chaotic attempts to spin-off public responsibilities to unprepared nonprofit organizations

Even though public/private partnerships are an excellent strategy—one we call for to help the Parkway—the process currently being implemented is more suitable to guaranteeing failure than success (though we join other Sacramentans in hoping for the best) as we do for the Parkway related spin-off of the nature center, done just as chaotically.

An excerpt.

“Sacramento County no longer wants to coordinate the area's homeless programs and plans to turn over that task to a new organization to be made up of government and private stakeholders.

“The county will be out of money for homeless services by the end of February, officials said, and is scrambling to come up with funds to operate programs through 2011.

“In the meantime, it is pushing forward with a plan to form a nonprofit group or joint powers authority that would pursue government grants, raise money in the private sector and distribute millions of dollars to agencies that serve the homeless.

“The approach could save money and deliver services more efficiently, said some of those involved in the planning process.

“But "it's a little scary," said Tim Brown, director of Sacramento Steps Forward, which focuses on finding permanent housing for homeless families. "It's a huge change, and it's happening very fast. We're not aware of anybody who has made this radical a transition this quickly."

“Officials from the county Department of Human Assistance will present their plan to the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday, and they want to embark on the project immediately. The new organization could be running by next June, they said.

“Until now, the county has been in charge of securing and distributing $19 million to $29 million annually for homeless programs, including shelter beds, permanent housing units and the homeless census. Most of the money comes from the federal government.

“But in the midst of a budget crisis, the county no longer has the staffing and resources for such coordination, said human assistance director Paul Lake. Without a new plan, the Sacramento area could lose millions of federal dollars and critical programs, he said.

"The situation has changed, and we need to find another solution," said Lake.

“The new concept grew out of discussions with service providers, faith leaders, private business people and city and county government officials as the county's yawning budget deficit forced cuts across the board, including to homeless programs.
Last year, for example, the county ended its winter shelter program at Cal Expo, forcing social services groups to find alternative places for homeless people to spend cold and rainy nights.

"The current system is not sustainable. We need a public and private partnership with as many stakeholders as we can get," said Anne Moore, Mayor Kevin Johnson's homeless liaison. Johnson has declared the homeless issue one of his priorities.”