Opinion: Sacramento County kicks couple off homeless program, fails to keep people from going homeless

Robert J Hansen

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Mervin Dunford’s oxygen tanks.(Courtesy of Sherri Dunford)

by: Robert J Hansen

Mervin and Sherri Dunford are an elderly couple on a fixed income, living at their Rancho Cordova apartment with the assistance of Sacramento County’s Flexible Housing Program (FHP)

One would think they are the ideal people for housing programs. They used to be homeless, they both are on either social security or disability and couldn't afford to live anywhere without government assistance.

So why has the FHP program given the Dunfords a notice that it will stop providing services as of July 1?

In March, the Dunfords received a notice informing them that FHP will no longer provide rental assistance and that the full rent is due to their landlord on July 1.

The FHP program, according to the County, focuses on employing a  “whatever it takes” approach to assist clients with transitioning from homelessness to permanent housing. 

Reverend Ashiya Odeye, Executive Director of the Justice Reform Coalition (JRC), the Dunfords are getting kicked off the program “for no reason.”

He says these programs are not doing anything other than making sure a bunch of people get their paycheck. 

“It’s like they don’t want to solve homelessness,” Odeye said. “They are making people go homeless. People who have done everything they have been asked of them.”

Odeye has been trying to help the Dunfords stay in their home since March 2022.

“About three months ago we learned that the Dunsfords were on the Flexible Housing Program Pool and had received a notice that they would be dropped from the program in July 2022 with no reason,” Odeye said.

When the FHP was investigated, it became obvious that whoever was in charge of the program's dealings with the Dunsfords had failed to offer any of the services and assistance that they should have been receiving while on the program according to Odeye.

“It’s been completely frustrating and took three months just to figure out who is supposed to be helping,” Odeye said. “Just to realize they’re not doing what they’re supposed to be doing.”

Odeye took the problem to Sacramento County Supervisor Don Nottoli who said there have been other folks that he has heard this is happening to them.

Odeye said Nottoli told him he is going to dig from his side and try to stop evictions and keep folks on the program.

The program, like many programs for County Services,  is funded by the Sacramento County Department of Human Assistance.

Property Related Tenant Services (PRTS) is a County funded program whose goal is to help individuals and families who lack suitable and sustainable housing, whether they are living in a shelter, couch surfing, a vehicle, the park, on the sidewalk, or the river according to Sacramento Self Help Housing (SSHH).

Other agencies involved are Next Move Homeless Services and Consumers Self Help Center (CSHC). 

If you're confused with all the different agencies and names, don’t worry, it’s meant to be confusing. It’s even confusing to people who work for the County.

Janna Haynes, spokesperson for Sacramento County had no answers when asked how this happens to people, saying only that people can be exited from the program for noncompliance.

“FHP participants are high users of county systems, particularly behavioral and correctional,” Haynes said in an email.

The Dunfords never got any complaints or violated any rules.

The Self help Center said it does not handle the housing piece and only connects folks with agencies and helps get documentation.

Supervisor Kevin Taylor spoke with the County and they told him to have Odeye contact Next Move.

“This was the first that we or the Dunsfords had even heard about Next Move's involvement,” Odeye said.

Executive Director of Next Move, Debbie Martinez, has been unable to be reached.

That’s how it goes with trying to get homeless services from the County or City, they just give people the run around until they get confused or ignored and they give up.

Sacramento County's continuum of care agencies and organizations that are supposed to be solving or at least fighting homelessness is failing the Dunfords and who knows how many others.

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Robert J Hansen is an investigative journalist and economist. Focused on holding elected officials, police and the courts accountable to the people throughout the greater Sacramento area.

Sacramento County, CA
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