Ryan Loofbourrow stepped behind the slender podium placed in front of the Quinn Cottages building on North A Street in downtown Sacramento, the heart of the homelessness crisis his agency is charged with ending. Several feet away, under an already warm sun, someone tried to get the applause going, banging thick palms together like rocks.
“Yeah, Ryan!” a woman called.
“Who applauds at a press conference?” a man in the audience wondered.
Loofbourrow, executive director of Sacramento Steps Forward, the agency that applies for and dispenses roughly $20 million in annual federal housing dollars, looked sheepishly into the morning glare. “Yeah, we’ll see if you’re all still clapping when we’re …” he said, the rest of the thought petering out.
There was no escaping the inevitable. Sacramento’s shame was about to be dragged under the spotlight of a searing summer sun.
According to a federally mandated point-in-time count, Sacramento County’s estimated homeless population rose by 38 percent in two years. Most alarmingly, the number of people without access to indoor shelter exploded 110 percent—to 2,052 human beings attempting to survive the elements and avoid arrest for sleeping outside.
(Steps Forward and Sacramento State University, which collaborated on the report, contend the increases are slightly lower when applying the same methodology to the 2015 report.)
Loofbourrow told attendees of the Monday press conference that the grim findings provided “a sobering affirmation of what we see every day.”
In total, 3,665 people on January 25 met the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s rather narrow definition of homelessness, which doesn’t account for multiple families sharing a single apartment or a young person crashing on a friend’s couch. Still, even with those limitations and the caveats that these surveys are performed on a single winter night in January and that they systematically under-count both families and youths, the findings were disastrous for a capital region that is eight years past the recession.
“This is not just a sobering report,” Mayor Darrell Steinberg said at the press conference. “This is a damning report.”
Read the complete story in the July 13, 2017, issue of the Sacramento News & Review.