Sacramento County’s local governments have failed to develop a comprehensive, regional approach to tackling homelessness — all as the crisis has spiraled out of control in recent years, according to a report published on Friday by the Sacramento County Grand Jury.
The report follows the grand jury’s eight-month investigation into the homelessness policies, plans and spending by the region’s county government and seven cities.
“There is no cooperative, collaborative, and coordinated effort among all eight governments in the County to create comprehensive solutions to this shared problem,” the report states.
Despite spending a combined $300 million annually to address the problem, the document points out that the county’s homeless population surged to 9,300 people in 2022, or two and a half times the population from five years before.
The grand jury called the recent homelessness partnership agreement formed between the city and county of Sacramento “a step in the right direction.” That pact was signed in December and commits the local governments to opening hundreds of new shelter beds and creating joint city-county encampment outreach teams to help unhoused residents find shelter or housing. The report notes, however, the agreement applies only to the city and county and not to the six additional cities.
To improve coordination, the report called on all parties to form a Joint Powers Authority, a government body that would include elected leaders from across the region, accountable to the public.
The grand jury cited the success of counties in Southern California which formed JPAs and subsequently reduced their homeless populations. This is the fourth grand jury in the past seven years to urge the county and cities to develop a region-wide approach to homelessness, the report added.
The document also criticized the fact that the region’s existing homeless planning agency, Sacramento Steps Forward, does not have any elected leaders on its board “and lacks decision-making authority” over the region’s local governments “making it powerless to implement needed changes.”
In a written statement, Sacramento County spokesperson Janna Haynes said the recent city-county partnership agreement is evidence of regional cooperation. She noted that forming a JPA “is not under consideration.”
“The county is currently and has been working closely with all the cities to address the needs of their specific homeless populations,” Haynes said. “The county already provides behavioral health services, benefits such as CalFresh countywide and encampment service teams to cities as needed.”
Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg, meanwhile, described the grand jury’s call for greater regional cooperation “both timely and right” and signaled his is open to creating a more unified regional governing body to confront homelessness.
“Our existing partnership is a good start,” Steinberg said in a written statement. “Let’s create the momentum for something even stronger. Ultimately, one governing body with all the cities and county gives us the best chance to make the difference that the public rightfully expects."
Steinberg announced this week he will not seek a third mayoral term, meaning voters will choose a new official head of the city in 2024.
Contact CapRadio reporter Chris Nichols at [email protected]
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