New Report Confirms Increase in Number of People Experiencing Homelessness
Sacramento, CA (MPG) - Despite housing 2,232 individuals and families who were experiencing homelessness in 2016, a new report commissioned by Sacramento Steps Forward and authored by Sacramento State’s Institute for Social Research confirms that homelessness has increased across Sacramento county in the past two years.
According to the report, titled “Homelessness in Sacramento County: Results from the 2017 Point-in-Time Count,” the total number of people experiencing homelessness has increased by 30 percent to 3,665 since 2015. Among people who are unsheltered, a subset of the total population who are living outdoors on the street, in tents, cars, or RVs, the number has increased by 85 percent to 2,052. Approximately 31% of people who are unsheltered are chronically homeless, meaning they have experienced prolonged bouts of homelessness and are disabled.
“This report provides a sobering confirmation of what we see in our neighborhoods every day,” said Ryan Loofbourrow, CEO of Sacramento Steps Forward. “It’s frustrating that we could not stop the rising tide of homelessness, but we hope this information will provide regional leaders with the empirical data they need to collaborate on innovative solutions.”
In addition to overall increases in homelessness, the report found a 50 percent increase in the number of homeless veterans since 2015, up to 469 people. The majority of these veterans are unsheltered. Veterans continue to make up approximately 13 percent of the total homeless population.
Individuals who reported continuous homelessness tended to be substantially older and were often encountered in encampments near the American River Parkway, in contrast to younger people who were downtown. Older chronically homeless individuals – between 55 and 64 – were also more likely to report being a veteran or suffer from a disabling medical condition.
"This news affirms what is already evident to the people of Sacramento, the question is what are we going to do about it," said Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg. "We are going to implement the city's $64 million Whole Person Care grant together with our public housing resources to get 2,000 people off the streets as soon as possible. No excuses, no boundaries, action and results are all that matter."
There were drops in the numbers of families and transitional age youth who were found to be homeless, which is a testament to the work of homeless service providers, but these groups are traditionally hard to survey for this type of report so the findings may not accurately capture a true census of these communities.
The report cites the housing drought as a potential factor in the rise of homelessness and explains that the trend in Sacramento is consistent with other communities who have tight housing market conditions. The report also explains the potential impact of flooding on the American and Sacramento rivers and improved statistical methodologies.
The rise in homelessness between 2015 and 2017 in Sacramento County is consistent with similar increases recently reported across the state. At the time the report was written, Alameda County reported a 39 percent increase in homelessness, a 76 percent increase in Butte County, and a 23 percent increase in Los Angeles County.
"This report confirms what we all see with our own eyes: a shocking and unacceptable rise in the number of persons experiencing homelessness. We need to redouble our efforts to increase our stock of affordable housing so that everyone in Sacramento has a simple home of their own," said Joan Burke, who is Chair of Sacramento’s Homeless Continuum of Care Advisory Board and Director of Advocacy Loaves & Fishes
Sacramento Steps Forward commissioned this report as a part of its biennial point-in-time count, which is a county-wide census of people experiencing homelessness. It provides a snapshot of who is homeless on a single night. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Develop requires local communities to conduct this census every two years as a condition of receiving federal funding for their Homeless Continuum of Care, for which Sacramento Steps Forward is the lead agency.
The point-in-time count was conducted on January 25, 2017 by nearly 400 trained volunteers who fanned out across the county to count and survey people living on the street, in tents, cars, and RV’s, while a data team documented the number of people sleeping in emergency and transitional shelters.
The point-in-time count and this report were made possible thanks to funding from the County of Sacramento, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, and Sacramento Housing and Redevelopment Agency.
Sacramento Steps Forward is a 501(c)(3) non-profit homeless service agency who, through collaboration, innovation, and service, is working to end homelessness in our region.
Founded in 1989, Sacramento State’s Institute for Social Research (ISR) is an interdisciplinary unit that harnesses the power of scientific research tools to address social problems. Their research and analysis expertise, learned through the hundreds of projects completed for government agencies, nonprofit organizations and the academic community, provides the region with actionable information that can inform key policies and decisions.
On March 21st, 2017, the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved four initiatives to reduce homelessness with the intent to improve the family homelessness sheltering system; support the strategic use of transitional housing; establish a low-barrier Full Service Rehousing Shelter, and implement a new supportive Rehousing program that will employ intensive case management and Rehousing supports in conjunction with dedicated Public Housing Authority housing resources.
County Initiative #1, to Redesign Family Homelessness Response and Shelter System seeks to modify contracts to require family shelter to prioritize unsheltered families, establish low barrier requirements, mandate family acceptance of housing services and exit most families to permanent housing within 45 days. The proposed system would simplify access to shelter entry and maximize bed utilization.
With County Initiative #2, Preservation of Mather Community Campus (MCC) Residential and Employment Program, the County would provide replacement funding to continue transitional housing and employment programs at MCC for 183 single adults experiencing homelessness when HUD Continuum of Care funding sunsets on September 30, 2017.
With County Initiative #3, Full Service Rehousing Shelter, the primary purpose of the shelter is to serve those with the highest barriers to traditional services and shelter. Staff proposed that the County fund a local provider to open a 24-hour, low-barrier Full Service Rehousing Shelter designed to shelter and rapidly re-house persons who are difficult to serve in traditional shelters or services. Stable exit will be the primary objective of on-site case management.
County Initiative #4, Flexible Supportive Rehousing Program, would employ a “frequent utilizer” approach to targeting the highest cost users experiencing homelessness to identify eligible participants. The Program would provide a highly flexible solution, employing proactive engagement, “whatever it takes services”, and ongoing housing subsidies to engage and stably re-house the target population.
Today’s report to the Board provided implementation milestones and timeframes, essentially a “roadmap” to reduce homelessness. Comprehensive efforts to reduce homelessness have been augmented in the last year:
On October 18, 2016, the Board held a workshop on homelessness: “Homelessness Crisis Response: Investing in What Works.”
A second workshop was held on November 15, 2016, called “Increasing Permanent Housing Opportunities for Persons Experiencing Homelessness.”
On January 24, 2017, County staff presented a comprehensive package of strategic recommendations to improve outcomes for people experiencing homelessness.
On January 31, 2017, the Board of Supervisors and the Sacramento City Council held a joint workshop on homelessness.
On February 28, 2017, the County hosted a stakeholder meeting with approximately 60 persons in attendance representing 36 organizations to help shape the initiatives.
Department of Human Assistance Director, Ann Edwards, stated, “I am excited about the Board’s commitment to taking these steps to reduce homelessness in our community.”
Advanced Home Health, Inc. today announced it has earned The Joint Commission’s Gold Seal of Approval® for Home Care Accreditation by demonstrating continuous compliance with its performance standards. The Gold Seal of Approval® is a symbol of quality that reflects an organization’s commitment to providing safe and effective care.
Advanced Home Health, Inc. underwent a rigorous onsite survey. During the survey, compliance with home care standards reflecting key organization areas was evaluated, including the provision of care, treatment and services, emergency management, human resources, individual rights and responsibilities, and leadership. The accreditation process also provided Advanced Home Health, inc. with education and guidance to help staff continue to improve its home care program’s performance.
Established in 1988, The Joint Commission’s Home Care Accreditation Program supports the efforts of its accredited organizations to help deliver safe, high quality care and services. More than 6,000 home care programs currently maintain accreditation, awarded for a three-year period, from The Joint Commission.
“When individuals engage a home care provider they want to be sure that provider is capable of providing safe, quality care,” said Margherita Labson, RN, MS, executive director, Home Care Accreditation Program, The Joint Commission. “As the home care setting becomes increasingly popular, it is important that home care providers are able to demonstrate that they are capable of providing safe, high quality care. Accreditation by The Joint Commission serves as an indication that the organization has demonstrated compliance to these recognized standards of safe and quality care.”
Advanced Home Health, Inc. is pleased to receive accreditation from The Joint Commission, the premier health care quality improvement and accrediting body in the nation,” added Angela Sehr, RN “Staff from across our organization continue to work together to strengthen the continuum of care and to deliver and maintain optimal home care services for those in our community.”
The Joint Commission’s home care standards are developed in consultation with health care experts, home care providers and researchers, as well as industry experts, purchasers and consumers. The standards are informed by scientific literature and expert consensus to help organizations measure, assess and improve performance.
Founded in 1951, The Joint Commission seeks to continuously improve health care for the public, in collaboration with other stakeholders, by evaluating health care organizations and inspiring them to excel in providing safe and effective care of the highest quality and value. The Joint Commission accredits and certifies more than 21,000 health care organizations and programs in the United States. An independent, nonprofit organization, The Joint Commission is the nation’s oldest and largest standards-setting and accrediting body in health care. Learn more about The Joint Commission at www.jointcommission.org.
One Sacramento-based company has quietly and efficiently carved a niche into the home health care business by providing superlative care for patients and caregivers alike. The “whole-istic” business model of Advanced Home Health and Hospice (AHHH) has earned them not only professional accolades and a thriving business, but a stellar reputation for their positive results for even the most complex patient care. The beating heart of this organization is founder Angela Sehr. Sehr is a woman with a mission and a vision with patient wellbeing in the Sacramento area.
Born in Xian, China, home of the famous Terra Cotta Warriors, Sehr started college at 15 and became a nurse at 18. The youngest of nine children, her siblings are also high achievers with a judge, college professor, engineer and a teacher among her immediate family.
Shyly self-admitted as a teacher’s pet, she loved science from a very young age. She says her mother encouraged her children to all be independent. “Marry well, she said, but always be able to stand on your own two feet,” was her mom’s advice.
Sehr may now be the boss, but she is far from being afraid to roll up her sleeves when it comes to patient care. She paid her dues with years in hands-on nursing. In fact, she still takes care of patients herself, in addition to her many other duties. AHHH offers patients around the clock care, just one of the many aspects that separate them from their competition. “I go out to patients’ homes at 2 in the morning if they need it, just like everyone else on staff,” said Sehr.
Sehr is a Registered Nurse who has worked around the world with patients of all ages and many different health issues. She came to Sacramento, having worked in places like China and Saudi Arabia. She attended Sacramento State’s Nursing program and earned her BSN here, spending over a decade in pediatric care and found her way into Infusion care as a nurse for patients in need of this specialized help. She has built her company on years of caring for infusion patients. Her company carries her compassion forward, providing top-notch, compassionate care for patients and their families.
During a time when healthcare laws and models are in flux. Sehr’s company, AHHH has built a company that successfully and efficiently treats and maintains a base of anywhere from 600 to 800 patients, more than double similar programs of even healthcare giants like full-fledged local hospital systems. To meet the need AHHH has found, the company currently has a staff of approximately 400 highly-trained specialists performing an impressive array of care and support services, and specializes in “complex” patients, often avoiding such patients having to be readmitted to hospitals.
AHHH is as advertised. Staff is on-call 365 days a year, 24 hours a day. They provide truly advanced wound care, infusion nursing, orthopedic, occupation and physical rehabilitation, speech and swallow function therapy, specialized medical social workers and a chaplaincy ministering to the patients and their loved ones. The tiniest staff member is a therapy dog.
AHHH is a Medicare Certified Home Health Provider. They are licensed by the by the California Department of Public Health. They have provided care for premature babies, pre-and post op patients, patients such as diabetics with wounds that can be nearly impossible to heal. Many of these are patients the hospitals have given up on and AHHH has succeeded where others have failed, improving patient outcome in terms of health and healing. Sehr is intent that her teams utilize the latest technology to treat patients and makes available ultrasound and laser therapy, in addition to debridement if physician ordered.
The Low-Level Laser Therapy (LLLT) alone, per Sehr can be highly effective in treating, diabetic ulcers, venous stasis and arterial ulcers, and many other types of non-healing wounds.
The hospice care that Sehr’s company provides is a growing service, based on industry best practices, but also on her own experiences as a nurse. Most hospice patients they see are given six months or less to live, but that isn’t an outcome set in stone. “We don’t give up,” she says. “We’re not God, but people do ‘graduate’ from hospice. They do get better.”
Hospice care provides comfort care to patients and family. “Advanced hospice nurses are registered nurses specifically dedicated to end-of-life care. They are focused on pain and symptom management for our patients around the clock. In addition to serving the terminally ill, hospice clinical team counsel and educate caregivers and family members on the needs of the patient, guiding them through every issue that may arise. Our hospice nurses work as a part of an interdisciplinary team that develops and manages the care for our patients and their families.”
A vital part of their team are the hospice social workers who are there to support patients and their families. “Our social workers are trained to assist our patients and their families on developing an individualized plan of care, researching ways to relief stress and anxiety by non-medical means, and connecting them with appropriate local resources.
“We understand that our patients and their families may have financial problems. Our social workers are equipped with the necessary tools and knowledge to provide counseling in these areas, as well as coordinating possible aid from other organizations,” Sehr commented.
What does it mean to be an advanced hospice social worker? According to AHHH, “It means to be a supporter of our patients and their families. Our social workers are trained to assist our patients and their families on developing an individualized plan of care, researching ways to relief stress and anxiety by non-medical means, and connecting them with appropriate local resources.
“A loss of a loved one, even if anticipated, brings a slew of emotions and grief for surviving family and friends. Our hospice bereavement professionals and volunteers are trained to provide counseling and support by understanding the loss and compassionately walking step by step with surviving spouses, children, or parents.”
“To help our patients cope with the end of their life, AHHH provides spiritual services by certified chaplains to promote spiritual and emotional well-being. Our chaplains may also work with the patient’s clergy and coordinate spiritual nourishment and revitalization.”
Sehr credits hospice volunteers for the selfless work they do as part of the organization. “Our hospice volunteers spend time with patients and their loved ones. They run errands and provide caregiver relief, companionship, and supportive services. Volunteers are the backbone of our hospice team.”. Volunteers form bonds with patients and family members. Patients and families often tell volunteers things they feel they can’t tell their loved ones and help open the way for people to talk honestly. Volunteers work alongside paid staff in every area of hospice care.”
AHHH truly treat the entire family, and that includes monthly bereavement support group meeting. “At Advanced Hospice, patients are nearing and passing the end of their life, leaving behind husbands, wives, sons, and daughters,” according to the company website.
“When a patient is diagnosed with a serious illness or is recovering from an injury, our medical professionals, nurses, and therapists work hard to rejuvenate him/her to normal life. In addition to purely medical procedures, medications, and techniques, a huge part of a person’s recovery depends on his/her psychosocial condition.”
AHHH is making a concerted effort to reach America’s veterans. “Veterans have done everything asked of them in their mission to serve our country and we believe it is never too late to give them a hero’s welcome home. That’s why our hospice is taking part in the We Honor Veterans program. Our staff understand the unique needs of veterans and are prepared to meet the specific challenges that veterans and their families may face at the end of life.”
AHHH measures its success with data, not just good feelings. Their clinicians log every visit in detail, right down to wound and physical improvement, modality effectiveness, length of visit and many more details. That data is analyzed for the benefit of each patient, but the accumulation of data is used by the company to improve patient outcome and patient satisfaction. The company has recently broken ground on its next project, a free-standing Hospice Facility. While starting small, at 6 beds, it will be the only hospice in the area and unlike any other, due again to Sehr’s experience and personal touch.
On November 1, the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors approved an agreement for $360,000 with Sacramento Steps Forward (SSF) for the administration of the Winter Sanctuary Program. The Winter Sanctuary Program provides nighttime shelter with local faith-based organizations, including transportation and two meals, for Sacramento County’s homeless population from November 21 through April 30, 2017. “This is the fifth year of funding this program in order to provide 100 additional beds for Sacramento’s homeless each night during the winter,” said Chair of the Board Roberta MacGlashan. “We are pleased and grateful to the 19 congregations that have agreed to host and look forward to other organizations filling in the remaining open nights.”
As part of the agreement, SSF will provide monthly reports of the number of persons sheltered per night, including the breakdown of men, women and families served and their geographic origination. The data will be utilized to determine potential areas of focus for future funding opportunities.
Sacramento Steps Forward coordinates the shelter, transportation to and from the shelter sites, and meals with, as well as outreach and referral efforts for ongoing supportive services.
Currently, congregations have been lined up to provide services for every night except 52. Sac Steps Forward and its subcontractor, First Step Communities (FSC), are working to recruit congregations to fill out the list, including those that can accommodate pets, and two congregations to serve as intake sites for persons who are unable to travel to the main intake site of Loaves and Fishes.
In recruiting these additional intake sites, SSF and FSC are utilizing data to determine where the highest populations of homeless exist outside of the immediate geography of Loaves and Fishes.
The County is also providing $75,000 to Volunteers of America (VOA) for the period of November 21 through March 31, 2017 for the administration of the Winter Shelter Program for homeless families. Offered since 2011, this program has provided shelter to 876 adults and children since its inception.
The homeless are the invisible denizens of America's cities, says Dan Weber, president of the Association of Mature American Citizens. “But, the dirty little secret that has only come to light recently is the fact that the elderly are among the fastest growing populations living on the streets,” he reports.
The Department of Housing and Urban Development told Congress last year that there were more than 300,000 homeless Americans 50 years of age or more, 20% more than there were in 2007.
A recognized expert on the issue of the growing number of older individuals who are on the streets is University of Pennsylvania Professor Dennis P. Culhane. He says that in 1990 “the peak age of adults who were homeless was 30” and that today the peak age is 55.
Weber is calling on all candidates for election and re-election in November and those in the private sector to recognize the fact that more seniors are homeless than ever before and to take to heart the needs of “these hapless lost souls. Focus on their plight and let the truth be told, loud and clear. Everyone needs to pitch in if we are to solve this problem, which only grows bigger with each passing day.”
Some would blame the spike in homelessness among older Americans on the swiftly aging population. But, Weber says, it has more to do with the rising cost of health care and health insurance, the lagging economy, the impact of such diseases of old age as cancer and Alzheimer’s and, perhaps the most damaging cause of all, the lack of affordable housing.
“In fact, talk to any health provider who deals with the homeless and they will tell you that there has been a dramatic shift in recent years in the illnesses from which they suffer. It used to be that the homeless suffered mainly from drug abuse and mental illness. Nowadays they are more likely to have the chronic diseases of old age,” Weber notes.
Mel Martinez and Allyson Y. Schwartz are the co-chairs of the Bipartisan Policy Center Senior Health and Housing Task Force. Martinez is a former U.S. Senator from Florida and Schwartz is a former Congresswoman from Pennsylvania. They published an Opinion Article in U.S. News and World Report last month in which they concluded that “preventing and ending homelessness among older adults should become a major national priority in the United States. By setting goals to end homelessness; increasing available low-income senior housing; and by understanding that the challenge requires participation from public and private partners at all levels, we can and will find ways to ensure that all U.S. seniors have the shelter and security that they deserve.”
Meanwhile, Margot Kushel, professor of medicine at University of California, San Francisco, is an expert on the elderly who become homeless. She says that providing them with housing is the key to fixing the problem. “A lot of these people have been healthy their whole lives. But it doesn't take long for their health to plummet once they're homeless. Once someone is housed, depression often lifts, stress fades away, infections heal. It's instant.”
Says Weber, “everyone has his own set of priorities, but one thing we all have in common is that we are all growing older. It's one of the hardest things we will all do in this life and so we should have compassion for those who need our help.”
The Association of Mature American Citizens [www.amac.us] is a vibrant, vital senior advocacy organization that takes its marching orders from its members. We act and speak on their behalf, protecting their interests and offering a practical insight on how to best solve the problems they face today. Live long and make a difference by joining us today at www.amac.us/join-amac.
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