The County Voice

California’s Counties Empowered to Address Homelessness

“The Empowerment Congress Summit is a great example of how elected officials, community leaders and stakeholders from across the state can come together to share innovative ideas and work together to solve the most challenging issues of our communities in peril.”

I shared these words recently at the 28th annual convening of Los Angeles Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas’s Empowerment Congress Summit, attended by more than 800 state, county, city and community leaders committed to addressing “Communities in Peril” with many sessions focused on the critical issue of homelessness. I was honored to share how California’s counties are driven to serve and address homelessness, which I attended alongside my fellow CSAC Officers, 1st Vice President James Gore, Sonoma County Supervisor, and Immediate Past President Virginia Bass, Humboldt County Supervisor. Our delegation also included CSAC Executive Director Graham Knaus, Deputy Executive Director Manuel Rivas Jr, and the California Counties Foundation Manager Chastity Benson.

Homelessness is the crisis of our time and an issue I take very seriously as both President of CSAC and Chairwoman of the Orange County Board of Supervisors. I truly believe that every part of solving homelessness counts, including having the opportunity to treat those experiencing homelessness who are afflicted with mental or behavioral health issues.

The Empowerment Congress Summit is an annual platform for sharing  ideas and generating momentum to work together toward solutions to local and statewide issues. This year’s focus on homelessness echoes CSAC’s own prioritization of this critical issue. State Assembly Member Miguel Santiago said, “We have a real obligation to get homeless families and individuals into safe housing and provide them with services to help get them back on their feet. To do that, we need bold, creative solutions now.”

CSAC is dedicated to working with our local and state government partners, as well as our many stakeholders, to develop sustainable solutions that are flexible enough to meet the unique needs of individuals and local communities. As service providers to vulnerable groups, we are on the leading edge of addressing homelessness with solutions that range from building behavioral and mental health facilities to providing permanent housing and wrap-around services to keep people from experiencing homelessness again.

The Summit’s timing — held over the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend – was not coincidental, as the Empowerment Conference focuses on participatory government. Dr. King was not afraid to get involved; even today, if we want to improve our cities, our counties, our state and our nation, we all must get involved.

As we begin to dig in to the work ahead of us in 2020, I am inspired by the momentum and commitment expressed during the Empowerment Conference Summit and I look forward to bringing this energy to CSAC’s efforts on our core priorities. I look forward sharing what I’ve learned with my colleagues in Orange County as well as all California Counties through my role as CSAC President. As I shared at the Summit, California’s Counties are on a mission, and we are driven to serve when it comes to homelessness, mental health and behavioral healthcare.

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