The tag-line celebrating Clash frontman Joe Strummer’s life can also apply to Sacramento’s next 25 years.
When we asked Bob Erlenbusch to share what he hopes Sacramento will be like in 25 years for SN&R’s quarter-century anniversary issue, the outspoken homeless advocate went a little overboard. He didn’t just tell us what he thinks Sacramento can become in the year 2039—he dusted off his crystal ball and projected what will happen throughout the next quarter century. If he’s right, the year 2024 will be a big turning point in the effort to end homelessness for good.
Here now is his complete vision of the future, minus the talking robots:
Sacramento Regional Coalition to End Homelessness executive director
2039 will mark the 95th anniversary of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s State of the Union address to Congress, often referred to as the “Second Bill of Rights” or the “Economic Bill of Rights.” Among these rights, FDR reaffirmed the “right to a living wage; the right to be free from hunger; the right of every family to a decent home; the right to good health and the right to a good education.”
In the next 25 years, the vision I have is of a Sacramento that has fully embraced FDR’s Economic Bill of Rights. For me, it is important that we are located on a river evoking the phrase, “let justice flow down like water and righteousness like an ever-lasting stream.”
Here’s what else I believe could happen over the next quarter-century:
Homelessness was ended in 2025 with the full implementation of Sacramento Steps Forward’s “Plan to End and Prevent Homelessness.”
A key piece of this plan occurred in 2014, when the Sacramento City Council adopted the community benefits agreement that the Sacramento Coalition for Shared Prosperity proposed. The agreement, tied to the construction of the new Kings arena, resulted in the hiring of well over 1,000 homeless and very low-income people and generated more than $50 million for the city and county’s affordable housing trust fund.
These funds leveraged the California Housing Trust Fund, created by the California Homes and Jobs Act (SB391), to build over 1,500 units of affordable homes in our community.
This resulting success led the city and county to declare affordable housing a basic human right in 2024, and create an entitlement program to ensure that no one in the community is homeless or poorly housed.
A major component of that effort expanded Sacramento’s inclusionary housing ordinance to mandate that 20 percent of all new housing must be affordable to extremely low-income people.
As part of an effort to combat food insecurity, officials also required all affordable housing and civic improvement projects to include community gardens.
The city and county coupled this effort with a full employment program for homeless and very low-income people in all civic improvement projects, and gave local businesses incentives to hire homeless and low-income people to jobs with living wages and full benefits. The city was particularly focused on corporations like Walmart, which was known for hiring low-wage workers.
This effort was praised by a retooled Sacramento Metro Chamber of Commerce, which renamed its Next Economy campaign, “Next Economy for All,” to ensure an economy that worked for people with disabilities, youth, communities of color, women and homeless and low-income people, who were on the verge of being dramatically left behind in 2014.
As a result, Sacramento in 2039 celebrates being one of the most truly integrated and inclusive communities in the nation. The annual “Just Us” parade draws more than 100,000 people.
Additionally, the county reversed the trend of homeless children in the school system, which reached a peak in 2020 with over 20,000 homeless youth between preschool and 12th grade—almost double the number in 2014. The county created a Homeless Education Fund, and reaffirmed the right of every student to a good education. 2039 will mark the college graduation of the 10,000th formerly homeless student.
2039 also marks the 15th anniversary of the repeal of the city’s anti-camping ordinance, which came with a declaration that it was unjust to try to “arrest our way out of homelessness” and instead reaffirmed the basic human right to a decent home with the passage of the Sacramento Homeless Bill of Rights.
Finally, 2039 marks the 15th anniversary of the conversion of programs like Loaves & Fishes, Women’s Empowerment and River City Food Bank into local museums of “tolerance”— so that the next generations will never forget or allow the human pain of hunger and homelessness and the systemic policies that supported them in our community again.