Reduce Homelessness: The Problem, The Critique, & The Plan

The Problem

Homelessness has increased dramatically. It is affecting businesses and individuals every week.

  • The number of homeless in Shasta County has gone from under 300 in 2007 to over 1,000 today.
  • Homelessness increased by 200 people from 2022 to 2023 (the last year we have data)
  • While homelessness has increased across the state and is more prevalent in other cities, the increase in Shasta County has been one of the largest

Learn more about what we know about those who are homeless in Shasta County.

 

The Critique

The County’s role in addressing homelessness has declined over the last year as the City of Redding has stepped up to play a bigger role. 

  • This summer the County pulled out of its role as the lead agency in the local collaborative focused on homelessness, the Continuum of Care, causing other members to scramble to find a replacement in time to secure state and federal funding to address homelessness
  • The County also took several months to pass on funding it had received as lead agency to other partners despite repeated requests from those agencies and the state government
  • When the Sheriff closed the third floor of the jail during the summer of 2022, it appears that many of those inmates became homeless.
  • County board members have played a role in the AT HOME Shasta Committee, a group of primarily elected officials from the 3 cities and the county, working to address homelessness. The committee’s key accomplishment to date is the agreement to construct a day center where the homeless can stay during the day. This is a good step forward – and one the County had proposed years ago, but failed to achieve. The City of Redding was able to secure the funding to move forward with this project.
  • The County failed to win any of the $1.4B the state granted out for mental health and addiction treatment facilities through the Behavioral Health Continuum Infrastructure Program, while many other rural counties received funding (Mendocino, Calaveras, Humboldt, Butte, Glenn, Lake).

 

The Plan

The County should adopt practices that have worked elsewhere. I believe a 3-phased approach can help us achieve significant reductions in homelessness:

  • Phase 1 – Implement good management practices by copying what is working in the Built for Zero initiative, which has helped 14 communities achieve 0 homelessness for certain subpopulations and over 40 communities achieve significant reductions. First, set a goal of achieving 0 homelessness for a specific subpopulation. I propose we start with the ~100 veterans who are homeless. Then create a list of all veterans who are homeless in Shasta County and have the organizations working on the issue review the list and problem-solve for individuals on the list each month. As a board member, I’d like a report summarizing changes in that list on a monthly or bi-monthly (every 2 months) basis. 
  • Phase 2 – Get all homeless into the “system” by enforcing a consistent ban on public camping so that every homeless gets into a shelter of some type. To do this, I would propose making a coordinated effort by Anderson Police Department, Redding Police Department, and the Sheriff’s office and a public hotline to notify law enforcement for 6-9 months. We would have social workers accompany law enforcement officials – in the model of the Crisis Intervention Response Team (CIRT) – when engaging the homeless who are camping, so the social workers/case managers can ensure the handoff is made to a housing option. This will help prevent the camps from shuffling around the community, as they do today. The goal of this phase is to get everyone into a shelter so they have a chance of moving forward. Some of what we’re allowed to do here will depend on how the Supreme Court rules on Grants Pass v. Gloria Johnson. We currently don’t use all the beds available for the homeless (last count had only 63% of the beds utilized), so we should start by filling those beds. After all those beds are used, we should look to the cheapest ways to increase shelter options, including micro-shelters and repurposing existing hotels and motels.
  • Phase 3 – Improve the “system” by identifying cracks where people are falling through (e.g., after rehab, many end up back on street leading them to restart bad habits) and bottlenecks and gaps. For example, I believe we need increased in-patient mental health facilities in our county. If Proposition 1 passes, I’d like Shasta County to be first in line to get some of that money to build mental health facilities. As another example, we can’t keep sending people to rehab only to have them return to the same environment 30 days later. At day 20, we need to have develop a transition plan with them to ensure they enter a new environment that reinforces their newfound freedom. Similarly, we have a jail-to-street pipeline because we don’t currently have a consistent way of helping inmates transition successfully. We need to have every inmate in the jail develop a transition plan at least 1 month before leaving. 

We have historically either used a strategy of compassion or accountability, but we need an approach that combines both.

 

Here are other posts I’ve made on homelessness: