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Worker offering food to individual at industrial kitchen

Chronic Homelessness and Serious Mental Illness

This winter, the UC Center Sacramento hosted a symposium featuring five talks covering a wide range of topics related to California's homelessness crisis and beyond, including healthcare, housing, incarceration, and intergovernmental collaboration.

Each expert provided evidence-based correctives to common misconceptions about this highly-visible problem, which we present here. Some experts prioritized a "Housing First" approach, which emphasizes providing stable housing without preconditions such as sobriety or treatment program participation, while simultaneously offering wraparound supportive services. Other experts focused on the specific types of resources needed to address mental health and substance use disorders, and highlighted how the delivery of these services must be tailored to the particular needs of the individual and their community.

While each expert emphasized different aspects of chronic homelessness, whether medical or programmatic, economic or ecological, it was clear that addressing this complex social problem requires a multifaceted approach that includes:

(1) Short-term solutions such as shelters, transitional housing, and street outreach;

(2) Long-term solutions such as more affordable housing, federal housing vouchers, and more permissive zoning practices; and

(3) Preventative strategies such as early intervention programs for mental illness and substance use disorders, wage legislation, and more accessible healthcare delivery to individuals without stable housing or in street situations.

To watch the talks, go to the UC Center Sacramento website.

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