Homeless man and shopping cartThe Sacramento Association of REALTORS® has actively engaged with the City and County of Sacramento over the last two years on the issue of homelessness. Once used to be thought of as primarily a downtown issue, it is now seen in every neighborhood and suburb throughout the Sacramento Region. Thinking has shifted, and REALTORS® see this as a human rights issue and are frequently urging the Association to be more actively engaged in tangible efforts as well as policy–based efforts. It is an issue that leadership at SAR, as well as C.A.R., sees as critical to actively engage in. At the May 2016 NAR Directors meeting, a policy was adopted that local Associations are urged to work with community stakeholders to develop innovative and proactive strategies to aid citizens experiencing homelessness or facing housing insecurity.

Throughout the last two years, SAR has engaged in discussions about homelessness at every possible opportunity. We traveled to Seattle with members of the Sacramento City Council and area media to see the tent cities sanctioned by the City of Seattle. We worked with the City of Sacramento on their homeless task force. The goal of both the City and County of Sacramento is to improve and enhance the availability of permanent supportive housing. Research clearly shows this is the most effective long term way to assist those in need of help. And instinctively it makes sense. It is much more difficult to address issues that can lead to homelessness if someone does not know where they are going to sleep tonight. SAR supports the goal for permanent supportive housing and we will assist our local elected officials in achieving this goal as opportunities become available.

But during our extraordinarily wet winter, it became evident we also need more immediate solutions to serve those in need. During one of the recent winter storms, Supervisor Phil Serna and many concerned citizens saw people huddling at the top of the levee on Garden Highway as the American River rose. Supervisor Serna learned that shelters were already full, as were the short–term hotel vouchers he had secured. What was available was not enough to get all people in need out of the weather.

Supervisor Serna partnered with Mayor Darrell Steinberg and found additional shelter beds that were available, but unfunded. Sacramento County and the City of Sacramento both contributed $25,000. Supervisor Serna then approached SAR about contributing $25,000. SAR Leadership determined this was the ultimate opportunity to show the Association’s commitment to the issue of homelessness, and the SAR Board of Directors decided to donate $50,000 matching the contributions from the City and the County of Sacramento. United Public Employees Union heard about the effort of the REALTORS® and since donated $10,000 to aid the shelter beds.

Our money immediately opened new shelter beds, even before the checks were delivered, Stanford Settlement opened beds to those in need. At the press conference announcing the partnership to assist the homeless through the extreme weather, Leo MacFarland, Chief Executive Officer of Volunteers of America told a story about a 63 year old woman who showed up as soon as the newly funded beds were made available. She was wet and chilled to the bone, likely coming down with pneumonia. It is individuals like this that SAR’s financial, policy, and political involvement on the issue of homelessness will assist.

Caylyn Wright, SAR Government Affairs Director