Recent changes to how the city and the county work together to build more affordable housing is a step in the right direction. We simply do not have enough affordable housing units in the county - and there clearly is a need. The bond approved by voters needs to be put to work now. In addition, we know that not everyone wants a single family home. We need to ensure that as we grow as a county, individuals and families have a range of quality, affordable housing options.
We need to do all we can to prevent homelessness in the first place. The key to achieving this is how to identify those at most risk. We should work closely with community organizations that are already connected to vulnerable and low-income populations at risk of homelessness or displacement. Whether it’s short-term or mid-term rent assistance, banning no-cause evictions, ensuring access to mental health, or management of household bills for our elderly neighbors, we need to ensure that this work is woven into our safety net.
These approaches should include homeowners as well as renters -- many of our neighbors who live on fixed incomes face repair costs or property tax payments that threaten their homeownership. Doing all we can to keep people in their homes is the most humane and cost-effective approach to this work.
The county runs the Schools Uniting Neighborhoods system, a community-based network of wrap-around services for students and their families. When a child is hungry or a family needs access to health care, it is in our collective best interest to see that those needs are addressed. Barriers to school success, especially for young children, can create lifetime challenges. Increasing the reach of SUN schools, and making sure that the services provided are tailored to the needs of each school community, means more kids will have what they need to be successful students.
We know that the costs of incarceration are enormous, both in terms of taxpayer dollars and the long-term impact on individuals and their families. These costs are disproportionately borne by black and brown communities. We need to make sure our system creates accountability, without criminalizing mental illness, addiction, or poverty. We need more focus on mental health and addiction treatment and diversion programs, and restorative justice programs in every school.
Ensuring people can be successful in the long term is a wise investment of taxpayer dollars and will prevent crime in the future. We also need a specific examination of policies and practices around prosecution, sentencing, bail, and other components of the system to ensure justice is being served in an effective and equitable way.
In order to afford housing and to support themselves and their families, people need work that works. Stable, living-wage jobs with benefits. Access to capital, to start small businesses. Job training and apprenticeship programs that meet the needs of the folks they serve -- especially people of color -- and including both young people and mid-career workers. And we should connect job training and career development programs with housing programs -- people who need help with housing often also need help connecting to work, and combining the two will increase our success rate on both fronts.
SummerWorks, a program that puts low-income kids to work, has proven successful -- let’s build on it. 89% of youth completed their work experience and received a positive evaluation from their supervisor. 93% of youth were low-income; 76% were youth of color. And an analysis of the program found that $1.20 returned to our local economy for every $1.00 spent on youth wages. This kind of work experience can set a young person on a successful career path.