Bridging the Homeless Divide

Sacramento Region, CA  |  Story and Photos by Margaret Snider
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Left to right: Stefan Heisler, Reinvestment Analyst, and Kerry Simpson, Neighborhood Services Manager, City of Rancho Cordova; Dave Elliott, Navigator, Ryan Loofbourrow, Chief Executive Officer, and Ben S. Avey, Director of Public Affairs, Sacramento Steps Forward; Linda Budge, Vice-Mayor, City of Rancho Cordova. Photo by Margaret Snider

Sacramento Steps Forward Aims to End Homelessness

Rancho Cordova, CA (MPG)  - The right people, the right time, and the right resources are critical to ending homelessness in the Sacramento region, said Sacramento Steps Forward CEO Ryan Loofbourrow.  Speaking at the September Rancho Cordova Luncheon on September 15, Loofbourrow said that it is vital keep the goal in mind – end homelessness.  “When you stop saying that, you start planning in a whole different way,” Loofbourrow said.  “You start accommodating, you start creating scenarios that only make the misery of being homeless easier.  We must always keep our mind on ending homelessness as a tactic, so we move in that direction.”

Homelessness to SSF means literally that:  living in a place not intended for human habitation.  Rancho Cordova is one of the places for which SSF provides Navigators, or people who go out in the community to get to know the people on the streets. “When we start working with a person experiencing homelessness, one of the first things we do is establish a relationship, and start to establish a sense of hope,” Loofbourrow said.  “A sense that there can be a day that is stable, that is healthy, that endures.”

That doesn’t mean that no one will ever become homeless, but is an aim toward “functional zero.” This refers to the concept that homelessness will be rare, brief, and non-recurring.  “In short, there (would be) more people moving out of the system than are waiting to enter it,” according to the SSF website.

To do that it is important to catch a person or household at the critical moment, when intervention can help the most. “We want to be ready if that critical moment happens,” Loofbourrow said.  “If we’re not ready in the system, that moment might pass and we might have years more of homelessness for that person.” 

Currently the biggest obstacle to ending homelessness is the lack of affordable housing.  The last report out of the Housing Alliance, for the County of Sacramento, showed that four out of ten households are paying 40 to 50% of their income towards their rent or mortgage, a very high number. 

In keeping with this problem, CRPD Parks Services Superintendent Gerald Dobbs recently spoke with a woman who has been sleeping on a park bench after getting off work at a local grocery store at 6 a.m.  Dobbs found that she lives on Social Security and has a part-time job.  She sleeps at the park for a few hours until her son is able to pick her up and take her to his home where she stays until time to work again.  “This is somebody that really is trying to make it but cannot find affordable housing anywhere,” Dobbs said.  “She seemed like a very nice person, very level-headed, but in essence, she lost her home through a divorce and she literally has nothing other than trying to make enough money to go ahead and keep food on the table.”

Another example is a woman with a college degree and a national certificate in her field.  She works full time at a crisis program but after examining her options has been unable to find affordable housing in this area.  She and her daughter live with her parents, or she would be homeless, she said.  “Rents on apartments are $1,000 to $1,100 for one bedroom,” said the woman’s mother. “And that’s not necessarily in a particularly good neighborhood.  It’s very discouraging.” 

Rancho Cordova stats showed in January 2017 a homeless population of 212 plus or minus 25.  This number shows about the same ratio of homeless to population as other Sacramento County areas.  Stats also show 63% of Rancho Cordova homeless to be from “this city,” and another 25% from “this region.”

Services provided in Rancho Cordova from May 2016 through July 2017 show 39 households received shelter, 39 households received mental health, detox or other treatment, and 48 households received primary care.  Assistance was given to 34 in obtaining a Social Security Card, 66 obtained an Identification Card, and 24 a DD214 (proof of veteran status). 

For more information about Sacramento Steps Forward please go to www.sacramentostepsforward.org