Saturday, May 9, 2009

Thoughts on what effect county financial crisis will have after June 30

The county of Sacramento reports that there is a $187 million projected budget gap that needs to be closed for its upcoming fiscal year, which begins on July 1. To close the gap, the head of the county Department of Human Assistance has proposed closing three VOA-run shelters which provide beds for between 122 and 346 people, (dependent on when in the year you count the beds).

This shelter-closing thing is a sudden, huge threat to the security, life-experience and opportunity to escape the homeless trap for hundreds. After the media buzz of Feb+Mar+Apr and the city's response, for there, now, to be threat of a massive backslide, by the county, in services made available to the homeless community is traumatising.

Quickly, efforts must be made to forestall or reduce the county's cuts to fund shelters. And, ideas need to emerge of other means to keep homeless people from being pushed onto the street at night.

Bruce Wagstaff, the DHA director who proposed the cutbacks, suggested that part of the $4.7 million the county was receiving in stimulus funds directed toward homelessness might be utilitzed for shelters. Maybe. The problem here, quoting Wagstaff from a recent Bee article, "[The stimulus-funded] programs will focus on 'homeless prevention' and 'rapid re-housing' and not emergency shelters."

An obvious candidate-idea to help is to quickly create a legal encampment for the homeless. In order to be satisfactory to public officials in these tight-wallet times, the enterprise would have to be as simple and cheap as possible. It would need to happen with a cost to the county and city of something less than $12.50 per tent per day. And, such a Tent City would need to have residents all of whom are responsible and mature. Since, now, even Stockton may try an encampment for the homeless, it is time, at last, for Sacramento to try "safe ground" – by whatever definition you like, of that phrase – too.

Maybe, something can come together to run the Aid-in-Kind and Bannon Street VOA shelters very spare, providing only base necessities: Open from 8:30pm to 6:30am, providing just a light dinner; showers; a bunk bed; and a muffin and coffee in the morning. And, perhaps doing something along the lines of what New York City now does – charge the sheltered rent as a percentage of income – could help with costs.

Perhaps, there is something UC Davis MBA designers can think of to help here. You think?

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Blogger Peta-de-Aztlan said...

Greetings Tom~ This is a great post by you. I for one appreciate the work that you do with your Sacra Homeless Blog.

Sadly, this will have a big negative impact on those of us who work in what I call the shelter matrix, advocates for the humane rights of homeless people and other humane beings who stay within the shelter matrix. It is a reflection of a real failed state, a failed city-county government and a failed electorate that allows or fails to confront this cruelty to those homeless souls who suffer constantly in the misery of poverty.

I believe there is suppose to be a Meeting at City Council Chambers this Thursday. Do you know about it?

Let us combine our efforts in order to use the Power of the Internet to feed community education, mobilize the masses and raise cosmic consciousness. What happens to each of us affects all of us: from the local level to the cosmic-universal level. ~Blessings, Peta-de-Aztlan

May 10, 2009 at 8:13 AM  

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