The following is an excerpt from a recent article I wrote for local newspapers regarding homelessness. To read the entire article, please click here.
On January 31st, the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors and the Sacramento City Council had a joint meeting that drew an overflow crowd of about 400 to have a discussion about homelessness. The main topic of discussion was in regards to federal housing vouchers. There are currently around 70,000 people in Sacramento County waiting to receive federal housing vouchers, with only around 900 open slots each year. The people waiting on this list are either veterans, disabled, or pay over 50% of their income on rent/utilities – and have been waiting for years. Sacramento County is being asked to divert around 800 of these 900 slots to homeless people, letting them “jump the line” on the list.
I am not in favor of this approach for two reasons.
First, I do not think it is fair to the people currently waiting on the list. These people are often one step away from being homeless themselves – when they receive these vouches, it helps ensure that their housing situation is more stabilized. This system would rob Peter to pay Paul, and push more people to homelessness.
Second, I do not think doing this will actually help solve the problem. We are kidding ourselves if we think that simply giving a homeless person access to housing is going to solve their problems. They need comprehensive services that any one solution fails to address, including better access to physical and mental health services. Further, voucher recipients must still convince landlords to rent to them. Unless they are receiving wide-ranging services, many landlords will simply refuse to rent to homeless people. If vouchers are not being utilized, it increases the risk of our voucher program receiving less funds from the federal government.