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Guest Opinion: This new regional council could help address homeless crisis

Guest opinion by County Supervisor Sue Frost–
From 2017 to 2019, Sacramento County’s homeless population grew by a staggering 19%.

Sue Frost, supervisor
Sue Frost

If we did not have the formal count to tell us the homeless problem was getting worse, many of us could have guessed just based on what we see happening throughout our communities. I know that because I hear about it from every single community in my district. Not just the unincorporated portions, but the cities as well.

When I hear from constituents about this problem, a lot of them want to know why county and cities are not working together to fix this major issue.

It was a good question.

Starting in 2020, Sacramento County will start working with every single city in the county (Citrus Heights, Elk Grove, Folsom, Galt, Isleton, Rancho Cordova, and Sacramento) to start coordinating solutions. The growing homeless population is not the problem of just one jurisdiction in the county – it is a regional issue that may benefit from a regional approach.

The Sacramento Homeless Policy Council will have representatives from the Board of Supervisors, each city within the county, the Sacramento Continuum of Care Chair and the Board Chair of Sacramento Steps Forward. This Homeless Policy Council will serve as an opportunity for leaders in the region to start having a regional discussion around homelessness.

Up to this point, it seems like the only consistent policy among the jurisdictions is that the problem stops at the border. Now, we can work with the cities to make sure that best practices for real solutions are shared and adopted throughout the county.

And instead of being surprised about the opening of a shelter or change in policy, county leaders will all be privy to those conversations beforehand.

When this issue first came before me for consideration earlier in the year, I was excited but a bit surprised.  I had heard nothing about it until just days before I was supposed to vote on creating it, so I decided to do my “homework” and called the city managers for the suburban cities to get their thoughts. 

It upset me to learn that some cities still had lingering concerns, and other cities had not even been contacted.  It felt to me like a subverted attempt to get the outlying suburban areas to go along with whatever downtown Sacramento wanted to do. 

In response, I worked to slow down the process to ensure that everyone impacted would have a real seat at the table – and am pleased that we are finally there.

Related: Here’s what the 2019 homeless count in Citrus Heights found

Like many of you, I am sure, I wish this council had happened sooner. The problem has been growing in front of our eyes for years and it is hard to think of a time when sharing good ideas has been a bad idea. My hope is that the Sacramento Homeless Policy Council will address the approach of just moving the problem from one area to another.

Finding meaningful solutions to the homeless situation is good for businesses, families, and most importantly, homeless people themselves. The possibilities for helping the people of Sacramento County through this new council are many, and I am excited Sacramento County is a part of it.

Sacramento County Supervisor Sue Frost formerly served as a Citrus Heights councilwoman and currently represents District 4, which includes Citrus Heights.  She can be contacted at (916) 874-5491, or SupervisorFrost@saccounty.net.

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