Tag Archives: homeless shelters

Guess the yearly price tag to reduce homeless in Alameda County, California

Homeless encampment in Berkeley, Alameda County

There are over 1.5 million people in Alameda County. According to the study cited in this story, “…5,600 people experience homelessness on any given night. Over the next five years we aim to reduce that number to less than 2,200 people. If we achieve this goal no one will have to sleep outside.”

Take a wild guess as to how much money is required to achieve their goal. Then double or triple your number.

From SF Chronicle: Every person sleeping on the streets of Alameda County could be placed into housing or shelters if the county more than triples its spending on key programs, a new report says.

There is no obvious source for the more than $200 million a year needed — on top of more than $100 million already being spent annually — to achieve that goal, officials say. That has prompted talk of a potential tax proposal on the 2020 ballot.

The report is an update to a plan crafted more than a decade ago and adopted by Alameda County and its 14 cities seeking to end homelessness by 2020. The problem has grown since then, and the new report says it can be fixed by 2023 — with additional funding.

“When we wrote the 2007 plan, we said homelessness is a solvable issue. We wanted it to be true, but we weren’t sure. We were just building databases,” said Elaine de Coligny, executive director of Everyone Home, the effort to address homelessness in Alameda County.

“We have a lot more information now than we did a decade ago. We are confident in the solutions and strategies. We just haven’t been doing them at the pace and scale required,” she said.

The county spends about $106 million a year on homeless-related programs and subsidizes 3,000 permanent housing units. The report from Everyone Home, which was started by Oakland, Berkeley and county agencies, says those numbers should be $334 million and 9,000.

Sara Bedford, who is on the leadership board of Everyone Home, said reaching the goal is feasible. “I think we do a disservice if we’re not ambitious and realistic at the same time, and I think the plan does both of those things,” said Bedford, director of the Human Services Department of Oakland. “It’s very doable to achieve a functional zero — that you are housing people almost as quickly as they come into homelessness.”

Short of a San Francisco Proposition C-style tax increase or bond measure, that level of funding isn’t expected anytime soon. East Bay officials are beginning to contemplate putting such an initiative on the 2020 ballot.
Meanwhile, the report says, for every homeless person who found housing in 2017, two more became homeless. More than 12,000 people are homeless at some point each year in Alameda County. On any given night, the figure is 5,600.

The report says that if that number can be cut down to 2,200 people, with the additional funding, then no one would have to sleep outside, because there would be enough shelter and housing to go around.

Read the whole story here.

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Ninth Circuit rules that cities can’t prosecute homeless for sleeping on the streets

This will no doubt help keep the homeless industrial complex alive.

From Fox News: Cities can’t prosecute people for sleeping on the streets if they have nowhere else to go because it amounts to cruel and unusual punishment, which is unconstitutional, a federal appeals court said Tuesday.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals sided with six homeless people from Boise, Idaho, who sued the city in 2009 over a local ordinance that banned sleeping in public spaces. The ruling could affect several other cities across the U.S. West that have similar laws.

It comes as many places across the West Coast are struggling with homelessness brought on by rising housing costs and income inequality.

When the Boise lawsuit was filed, attorneys for the homeless residents said as many as 4,500 people didn’t have a place to sleep in Idaho’s capital city and homeless shelters only had about 700 available beds or mats. The case bounced back and forth in the courts for years, and Boise modified its rules in 2014 to say homeless people couldn’t be prosecuted for sleeping outside when shelters were full.

But that didn’t solve the problem, the attorneys said, because Boise’s shelters limit the number of days that homeless residents can stay. Two of the city’s three shelters also require some form of religious participation for some programs, making those shelters unsuitable for people with different beliefs, the homeless residents said.

The three-judge panel for the 9th Circuit found that the shelter rules meant homeless people would still be at risk of prosecution even on days when beds were open. The judges also said the religious programming woven into some shelter programs was a problem.

“A city cannot, via the threat of prosecution, coerce an individual to attend religion-based treatment programs consistently with the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment,” Judge Marsha Berzon wrote.

The biggest issue was that the city’s rule violated the U.S. Constitution’s Eighth Amendment against cruel and unusual punishment, the court found. The amendment limits what the government can criminalize, it said.

“As a result, just as the state may not criminalize the state of being ‘homeless in public places,’ the state may not ‘criminalize conduct that is an unavoidable consequence of being homeless — namely sitting, lying, or sleeping on the streets,'” Berzon wrote.

The ruling shows it’s time for Boise officials to start proposing “real solutions,” said Maria Foscarinis, executive director of the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty, whose attorneys were among those representing the homeless residents.

In 2007, the 9th Circuit ruled in favor of homeless residents of Los Angeles, finding that as long as there are more homeless residents than there are shelter beds, a law outlawing sleeping outside was unconstitutional. Both sides later reached an agreement and the entire case was eventually thrown out.

In 2009, a federal judge said a Portland, Oregon, policy designed to prevent people from sitting or lying on public sidewalks was unconstitutional. Portland officials now must also give campers at least 24 hours’ notice before cleaning up or moving unsanctioned camps.

A state judge rejected a similar anti-camping law in Everett, Washington.

Sara Rankin, a professor at the Seattle University School of Law and director of its Homeless Rights Advocacy Project, said the ruling will serve as a wake-up call to local governments, forcing them to invest in adequate supportive housing for the chronically homeless.

“I think it’s finally common sense,” Rankin said of the ruling. “There are certain life-sustaining activities that people can’t survive without doing. It’s a really important recognition that people have to be able to legally exist and survive somewhere.”

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