You wake up, get ready for work, and head out the door only to find a shopping cart full of melting ice cream and other spoiled food in your yard.
This happened to one woman I talked to while knocking on doors behind WinCo in Redding. She has stopped putting cushions on the chairs on her front porch because they kept getting stolen.
You skip picking up what you need at Target or Walmart because you don’t feel comfortable walking through the parking lots at night. This is the lived reality of many women in our community – as they have shared with me.
It would be easy to assume our county’s homelessness problem is unsolvable, that we’re on a one-way track to becoming a mini version of San Francisco.
But it doesn’t have to be this way.
Communities around the country are literally ending homelessness for certain populations in their communities.
107 communities across the country, including 12 in California, have set out to end homelessness. 14, including Bakersfield, have achieved what is called “functional zero” homeless for at least one population. Many of those achieved functional zero in just 1-2 years. 43 others have achieved a measurable reduction.
If others can do this, so can we. But let’s not reinvent the wheel. How have they achieved success?
- We need a shared goal of ending homelessness. Today, most communities define success by how they’re managing homelessness – how many people they are serving, how much money they are spending, even how many people they are housing. We need to define success by how close to zero we are. Maybe we focus first on chronic homelessness (138 people) or veteran homelessness (96 people).
- We need a by-name list of everyone experiencing homelessness updated monthly. Instead of relying on an annual count, a by-name list includes the name and details of everyone experiencing homelessness and it is updated monthly, enabling the community to hold leaders accountable to make progress and enabling those working on the challenge to make real-time, personalized adjustments.
- We need everyone working on this issue to coordinate efforts on an ongoing basis. “Like an emergency management command center, everyone who holds a key piece of the solution needs to be at the table together to solve it.” We need a collaborative group that works together weekly. Our community has come together before when facing big challenges, like recovering from the Carr Fire. We can do it again.
- We need to make targeted, data-driven housing investments. It’s too easy for communities to add new housing without reducing homelessness. This is the main criticism of the housing first approach and this was the initial experience of the organization leading the 107 communities that caused them to change course. We need to use real-time data to secure the housing resources we need and target them for the greatest possible reductions in homelessness.
I believe we can end chronic homelessness in Shasta County during what could be my first term as supervisor – if we all get behind this goal and we learn from what is working elsewhere, skipping language or elements that are not a good fit for us.
Would you support a countywide goal to end chronic homelessness or veteran homelessness by 2028?