Homelessness is the issue of our time and Sacramento is the epicenter of this national crisis. While San Francisco had dominated national headlines as the emblem of California homelessness, this year we saw a 67% increase in the number of people living on the streets over the past three years. Sacramento now has a larger homeless population than San Francisco — over 9,200 people. In fact, not only have we surpassed San Francisco, but we are told that our exponential growth in the number of homeless has outpaced every city in the Western United States.
Unfortunately, the impacts of this crisis are severe and only getting worse. It’s a sad story that we all see every day. Encampments have spread into our neighborhoods and places of business. Public safety and public health challenges have become more common while quality of life is threatened. Our streets aren’t clean enough, our neighborhoods don’t feel safe, Sacramento’s great momentum is at risk. The status quo is unacceptable for our community, for our families, for our businesses, and for those who need help.
Frustrated with the lack of meaningful progress on this crisis, we came together earlier this year to lead the Safe and Clean Streets Campaign and launched a signature-gathering effort to qualify our comprehensive homelessness plan for Sacramento. That plan is now on the November ballot with modifications by the City Manager and City Council as Measure O.
Measure O would immediately require the City of Sacramento to build emergency shelter sites and locations — places for people to go rather than living on our streets and sidewalks — and enforce the laws that we need in place to protect public safety. Homelessness is a human rights and quality of life disaster for our city. Solving it is the unequivocal No. 1 priority of our leaders. Measure O would guarantee that to be the case.
Though an important first step, shelter sites are only part of the equation. Equally essential is providing social services, mental health treatment, and addiction recovery support. Shelter sites established under Measure O would create the ideal environment for the County of Sacramento to deliver these essential services more efficiently and effectively.
In the simplest of terms, the City provides the shelter space and the County provides the services. Unfortunately, the alignment of the services between the City and County has been an ongoing challenge due to the lack of a partnership agreement between the parties. With this in mind, the Sacramento City Council amended Measure O in August to require a City and County Partnership Agreement be in place prior to the measure being implemented. While not what voters were promised back in April, this change gives us an opportunity to lean into this crisis and finally complete the critical tool that we’ve all been waiting for.
What would be in the City and County Partnership Agreement? Nearly everything that we would have wanted had we run a ballot measure in the County in 2024, like we had planned!
This includes tackling important issues such as coordinated access, coordinated enforcement, shared communication, and how to meet the growing need with social and mental services. The providential situation gives us a chance to accomplish every major aspect of our first-phase goals on homelessness on Nov. 8 — two years early. Make no mistake, there will be more work to do, but we will finally be positioned for success and results.
Since our measure was being made contingent upon a City and County Partnership Agreement, a 4×2x2 Committee was established to review the draft agreement. The 4×2x2 Committee is comprised of four City Councilmembers (led by the Mayor), two County Supervisors (Rich Desmond and Patrick Kennedy), and the two of us as the measure proponents, co-chairs of the campaign, and signers of the ballot argument in favor of Measure O.
Even though we haven’t always agreed, we appreciate and want to thank Mayor Steinberg’s support of our inclusion in the 4×2x2 Committee. Mayor Steinberg provided valued policy input that led to portions of our original initiative, and his ongoing willingness to focus, engage and work with us on this vital issue is crucial to success for everyone.
Additionally, we want to thank Councilmembers Eric Guerra, Jeff Harris, Jay Schenirer and Sean Loloee for leading the charge to keep our measure moving forward. Also, we appreciate how multiple County Supervisors, led by Rich Desmond and Patrick Kennedy, stepped up to push conversations with the City.
With the business community sticking together, we’ve created an indomitable team to support and hold our local elected officials accountable in creating real solutions on homelessness. Solutions like shelter, compassionate enforcement, and tangible services. The result of this work is Measure O on the ballot and, more importantly, the City and the County back at the table working together to address this challenge. Our hope is for this agreement to be finished prior to the day that voters receive their ballots. That way voters know that they are voting on a plan that will work and understand which leaders stepped up to the plate when it mattered. It won’t be easy — but nothing worth doing ever is.
If you want to support our efforts on homelessness, please go to safestreetsforsac.org.