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Will, Should Homelessness Become a Political Issue in Sacramento County Suburbs in 2018?

This homeless encampment just outside Elk Grove city limits on
West Stockton Boulevard  in Sacramento city was recently established.  

Next year voters will face an array of issues as they cast their votes for candidates and initiatives that will be presented to them. In many of the elections higher up the political food chain for named candidates, that election will in part be a referendum on the presidency of Donald J. Trump.

While Trump's presence will be felt up and down the ballot, for many races of a more local nature, such as the California Assembly and city council's in Sacramento County suburban municipalities, more localized issues should take precedent. One of these that could be a central issue is homelessness.

The topic of homelessness has gained more traction as a suburban political issue in the last couple years because it has morphed into a more visible occurrence in many communities even though the economy is in generally decent health. Sacramento's problems are well documented, and the issue is now gaining more attention in Citrus Heights, Elk Grove, Folsom, Galt, and Rancho Cordova.

As an example, at a recent Elk Grove City Council meeting Council Member Pat Hume agreed with an idea presented by a constituent to set aside a portion of a $5 million grant received from the State of California to explore the use of tiny homes to help people get off the street. While Hume's position was surprising given his conservatives leanings, his support might evaporate given the controversial nature of the proposal with many Elk Grove voters.

Regardless of whether or not Elk Grove pursues even a study of tiny homes, its discussion is a milestone. When perhaps the most conservative member of the Elk Grove City Council agrees that the city should look at alternatives to the previous cookie-cutter solutions for homelessness, there is a tacit acknowledgment this is a problem that it is not going away. 

While homelessness is now a part of the suburban Sacramento County landscape, will it become an issue of discussion during next year's mayoral and city council races?  Will candidates - incumbents or challengers - dare broach the question of the ways the city can deal with the problem?

After all, this is a problem that does not have a straightforward solution. Homelessness is an issue that has taken up residence in suburbs and it is here to stay.  

As for the second half of the question - should this become an issue for next year's races, we believe unequivocally yes. As the suburbs of Sacramento County continue down the path of more housing and commercial development, population increases will follow.

As population increases, it is inevitable things like crimes, and in today's world, the homeless population will follow suit. Aside from the moral aspect of how the issue will be handled, residents deserve to know what will be the financial implications of dealing with homelessness.

Given the complexities of the issue, it is unlikely any candidate will voluntarily discuss the topic. If voters want answers from candidates regardless of where they stand, it will be up to them to ask the tough questions because it is unlikely they will do it on their own.




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