Despite efforts to provide more shelter and housing, the number of people experiencing homelessness in Sacramento has increased over the past three years, according to the new Point-in-Time count released by Sacramento Steps Forward.
Conducted over two nights in February, the PIT count found 9,278 people living without homes in Sacramento County — a 67 percent increase from the last PIT count, conducted in 2019.
Approximately 75 percent of the people experiencing homelessness in Sacramento County were found within the Sacramento City limits. And most of them – 91 percent – were from Sacramento, contradicting perceptions that people experiencing homelessness are coming here from other areas.
According to the accompanying report from SSF, substance-use disorder and mental-health issues are prevalent among people experiencing homelessness, and solutions to address homelessness must include a coordinated and collaborative approach among nonprofits, the community, the City of Sacramento, and the County of Sacramento, which is responsible for providing social and behavioral health services in the region.
“The number of people self-reporting mental illness and substance-use disorder, while not a surprise, tells us where we need direct our resources if we want to really make a difference,” said Bridgette Dean, director of the City’s Department of Community Response. “The emergency shelters the City operates are the open door for people, and we absolutely need more of them, but we also need more of the social services, medical and mental health care, and treatment programs that the City cannot provide.”
There were glimmers of hope in the PIT count. Unsheltered homelessness among families with children dropped by 31 percent over the three-year period. The number of homeless veterans dropped by 6 percent.
“There are fewer families with children living on the streets, at least partially because of our City motel voucher program,” Dean said. “We have seen the success and immediate impact of having dedicated motels as shelter options for those most at risk, in lieu of housing options.”
Currently, the City of Sacramento has five motels under contract, representing 370 rooms housing approximately 450 people. Overall, the City operates 1,050 safe spaces, beds, tiny homes and motel rooms each night, a tenfold increase since 2017.
Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg earlier this week proposed expanding use of a facility on Auburn Boulevard from a current weather-related respite center to a full-time outreach, triage and respite center. The proposal requires City Council approval.
Dean said she is hoping for County collaboration at this site. “With the right County social services, the Auburn Boulevard site could become a model for how the City and County work together to move people off the street and toward stable and sustainable housing,” she said.
Dean also said that the demographic information in the PIT count underscores the need for “coordinated access,” a single system to find the right shelter setting more easily for each client. This system has been approved and funded by the City, County and SSF.
“Our region is on the verge of some significant additions to the number and type of shelter spaces we have to offer,” Dean said. “It’s imperative that all of those are included in the coordinated access system approved by the City, County and Sacramento Steps Forward.”
Sacramento Steps Forward is the region’s lead agency for coordinating efforts to address homelessness. SSF organizes the PIT count every two years as required by the Federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The previous count was in 2019; the count did not take place in 2021 because of the pandemic.