Community Voices, Opinion

Guest Column: Getting local homeless into jobs? It’s about to happen here.

Guest opinion column by County Supervisor Sue Frost–
Exactly a year ago, I wrote an article in the Citrus Heights Sentinel outlining why I thought Sacramento County was in need of a work program for people who are homeless. Since then, I worked to help craft a plan that would not only employ people who are homeless, but also work to beautify Sacramento County at the same time.

Sue Frost, supervisor
Sue Frost

I am thrilled to announce to you that the plan was formally adopted at the end of January, and will begin to be implemented in March. I want to take this opportunity to explain the program to you, and share with you why I believe it will work.

Ten homeless people selected from across the county (including people in cities like Citrus Heights) will be identified who are both willing to work and get clean. They will meet four days a week at a central location and then be driven to the American River Parkway to get paid minimum wage to do cleanup work. The American River Parkway has been completely trashed in many sections, due chiefly to homeless encampments and negligent teenagers, so this work is much needed.

In the afternoon, they will then be driven downtown to go through a job training program. This job program is aimed to get them various certifications in the construction industry. With the surge in construction in this region, there is a lack of construction workers, and this is the perfect field for them to get entry level work in.

After ten weeks of working and going through the classes, they will have graduated out, and a new group of ten will start the program. After leaving the program they will then get help in finding employment by getting introduced to employers, receiving job interview training, getting help creating a resume, and getting help obtaining job-appropriate clothing. This is also coupled with trying to find them a permanent housing solution.

I take great issue with new government programs that are started and turn out to be ineffective, yet get funded for eternity. With that in mind, this will be a trial program that will last for 40 weeks. After those 40 weeks, we will evaluate the program to see if it’s working, whether changes need to be made, or whether we need to end the program entirely.

To get this job done, the county (with major help from Sacramento Regional Sanitation District) decided to contract with PRIDE industries, a nonprofit headquartered in Roseville. Their primary mission is to help people who have disabilities overcome employment obstacles, and empower them to lead productive, independent lives as contributing members of our community. It seemed to me to be a perfect fit to have them work with people who are homeless, as many of their challenges are similar to people who have disabilities, such as regaining a sense of self-worth and finding reliable transportation.

I’m excited about this program because I believe finding jobs for people who are homeless is an important piece to this overall problem that we are not looking close enough at. I like the idea of giving them training in a field that sorely needs jobs, and I like the idea of teaching them what it is like again to feel accomplished for earning a paycheck by putting in a hard day’s work.

I know this is a drop in the bucket in terms of solving this overall problem, but I am hopeful that we might be onto something really great here, that over time and careful development we can end up putting to work far more than just 40 people.

Before signing off, I want to invite you to my next Citrus Heights Community Meeting on March 18, 2019, at 6 p.m. at Citrus Heights City Hall (6360 Fountain Square Drive).

Sacramento County Supervisor Sue Frost formerly served as a Citrus Heights councilwoman and currently represents District 4, which includes Citrus Heights.  She can be contacted at (916) 874-5491, or SupervisorFrost@saccounty.net.

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