You see them sleeping in the streets, you see them huddled under bridges, you see them lining up for free meals at the local church. These people are homeless, and Yolo County is working to provide them with permanent housing.
The Davis City Council will vote on the 10 Year Plan to End Homelessness on Dec. 8. The plan was drafted by HomeBase, a non-profit public policy law firm in San Francisco working to advance solutions for homelessness.
The plan has four main goals: to prevent homelessness by providing early assistance, to provide a range of affordable housing options, to provide support services and to effectively implement and administer resources for ending homelessness.
Organizations involved with combating homelessness include Davis Community Meals, RISE and the Wayfarer Center.
Danielle Foster, housing and human services superintendent for the City of Davis, said combining forces to combat homelessness is advantageous.
“Cities and counties can more effectively serve homeless families and individuals, or residents at-risk of homelessness, by pooling resources and coordinating services,” Foster said in an e-mail interview. “The federal government has placed a high-importance on such coordinated efforts and ranks cities and counties more favorably for funding opportunities if they have a 10 Year Plan.”
Yolo County was recently awarded $1.6 million in Homeless Prevention and Rapid Re-housing Funding. The money will be used to assist families and individuals in Davis and the rest of Yolo County who are homeless or at-risk of homelessness.
Homelessness affects a variety of people including former foster youth, families, veterans, the mentally ill and the unemployed. Preventing homelessness is more than just providing places to stay. Individuals often have a number of other underlying issues that must also be addressed in order to stabilize their housing situation.
Executive director of the Yolo Family Resource Center Bob Ekstrom said he is concerned about the lasting side effects of homelessness.
“I have worked with a number of homeless teens who are not typically identified with the traditional homeless population,” Ekstrom said. “What people don’t recognize is that homelessness results in trauma that lasts for life. Anything we can do to prevent or minimize trauma is helpful to both the community and the individual.”
Bridget DeJong, a lawyer for HomeBase, has been working on the plan for a year.
“Homelessness is a complicated problem,” DeJong said. “The only commonality between homeless populations is that all homeless people do not have a place to live. Resources are limited, so solutions to homelessness require extraordinary coordination between systems of care and require a wide variety of partners. A plan helps everyone agree to action and starts a community working together.”
The 2004 U.S. Census Bureau reported 120 homeless people in Davis. However, Ekstrom said homelessness should not only be defined in terms of the chronically homeless. He said the real numbers of people who are either homeless or at risk are impossible to determine, because these people do not come forward or do not identify themselves as homeless.
“This plan recognizes people who are not traditionally counted as homeless, said Ekstrom. “Homeless people include those who have lost or are in immediate danger of losing their homes as well as the people living on the streets.”
According to DeJong, homelessness is a personal as well as a community problem.
“For families, homelessness is especially detrimental because one of the key predictors of homelessness as an adult is being homeless as a child,” DeJong said. “For society, homelessness is literally costly because of services that end up providing care to people living outside, such as corrections and emergency rooms.”
JANE TEIXEIRA can be reached at email@example.com.