Elk Grove, Cosumnes Community Services Measure E workshop #3 on homelessness

The entire presentation can be heard in the link below. 

Last night the City of Elk Grove and the Cosumnes Community Services District held the third of four community forums to gather residents' input on spending the $23 million annual tax revenue generated by Measure E. Approved by voters in November, Measure E will levy an additional one percent sales tax on most purchases in Elk Grove starting April 1.

With over 100 residents attending, the focus of the workshop was homelessness. After hearing background information on Measure E from Elk Grove city manager Jason Behrmann and Cosumnes Community Services general manager Joshua Green, Elk Grove's housing manager Sarah Bontrager gave a wide-ranging presentation on the myriad causes and possible solutions to homelessness.

Bontrager started her presentation with how homelessness is defined. She noted there is a wide range from people who temporarily lack a primary residence to those who have no shelter and live in the open.

"The broadest definition is people who do not have a regular place to stay," Bontrager said. "And that might include people staying temporarily with family or staying in motels."

Bontrager said the city's current focus is on those who "are literally homeless" and living in tents or cars. She noted Elk Grove annually has 300 to 400 people who experience homelessness, and at any one time, there are 150 people without housing.

One of the leading causes of homeless in Elk Grove is the lack of affordable housing. Although the city has purchased three transitional housing facilities and has brought many affordable housing units online, demand has exceeded supply.  

"We just don't have enough housing," Bontrager said. "Especially we don't have enough affordable housing, and at the core, that's what causes homelessness." Continued below

Bontrager also noted Elk Grove does not have any supportive housing units. Supportive housing is facilities that provide housing and services for people with disabilities.

"We also do not have any permanent supportive housing," she noted. "What permanent support housing does is take folks in, puts them in housing but also gives them a lot of case management. Wrap-around case management, we call it."  

Last summer, the Elk Grove City Council denied the Oak Rose supportive apartment project in Old Town. Subsequently, that denial landed the city in hot water with the State of California Housing and Community Development department, which notified the city last October they violated state law. 

Even though Elk Grove Mayor Bobbie Singh-Allen voted against the Oak Rose project, she has committed to affordable housing. In a city council meeting last year, Singh-Allen committed to adding more starter homes to the city's housing mix (see video below). 

Bontrager finished her presentation by presenting possible solutions to address homelessness. The audience was given stickers to either support or oppose the ideas presented in three break-out areas that covered homelessness prevention, shelter and housing, and services and outreach.

The city has said they will consider the feedback received at this and two previous meetings, which covered public safety and economic development, and one to be held tonight discussing parks to formulate spending plans for the new revenue source. Tonight's meeting starts at 6 p.m. at District56

While many in the audience used green stickers indicating support for various social services and programs, there was a smattering of red stickers indicating opposition. In one conversation between an Elk Grove Police officer and two participants, the officer voiced his concern that if the city adds more services, that could attract more unhoused individuals to the city. 

Also, one person wrote a suggestion that said, "Move them to a cheaper state. Dakotas, Carolinas, Wyoming, Arkansas. CA is too expensive to get on your feet."
Listen Time 40 minutes

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