Susan Mackey's name is on a lot of lists.
"I've been on the SHRA (Sacramento Housing and Redevelopment Agency) list since 2011," she explained to ABC10 Monday. "I have a navigator, so I'm with Sacramento Steps Forward, Sacramento Housing Alliance and Sacramento Housing Authority, and many more my name is on the list of."
Mackey has been experiencing homelessness off and on for the past 20 years, including shelters and transitional housing.
For now, she's living in her car. She'd like a safer, more permanent roof over her head.
Mackey doesn't fit the stereotypical profile of a person experiencing homelessness. Sitting with one leg crossed over the other in a conference room at the Holiday Inn Capitol Plaza in Sacramento's Midtown, Mackey wore a colorful sweater over black leggings, tasteful jewelry and her hair neatly pulled back. By all outward accounts in that moment, she could have been one of the social workers or other conference-goers gathered in that same space.
Monday was Sacramento Housing Alliance's third annual Regional Affordable Housing Summit, where more than 250 stakeholders - including developers, lenders, non-profits and city leaders - gathered to tackle the serious and intertwined issues of homelessness and the area's shortage of affordable housing.
Mackey attended to get answers and see how she can help.
"What can I do to help you help us?" she said. "Because it takes a lot of people, and we all think, 'Well, someone else will take care of that.' Well, no, let's get our hands dirty and let's solve this problem."
Darryl Rutherford is Sacramento Housing Alliance's executive director. He said rents have doubled, even tripled, in recent years, making Sacramento one of the nation's largest cities with the highest rent increases.
"Often, you find folks that are, you know, the fabric of our community, who are the healthcare providers, you know, the in-home care providers, our teacher aides," Rutherford explained. "All of these folks, who, you know, are contributing greatly to our society, but they're being priced out of the market or they're having to live in sub-standard living conditions or in overcrowded situations."
The multi-pronged, complex solution, he said, involves trying to incentivize private developers to build affordable housing; securing more grant money for public housing and getting the community on board with the policies and initiatives needed to tackle the issues, even if it means a shelter in their neighborhood.
"Be willing to accept some of the solutions and strategies that are being promoted today," urged Rutherford. "It's a big challenge that we're facing, and, you know, we're going to have to do something more to wrap our hands around this and solve the problem."
The summit's theme this year was "All Hands on Deck: Solving Our Housing Catastrophe."
"There's a shortfall of 62,000 affordable homes for those who are on very low incomes," Rutherford explained. "We see the waitlists for public housing and the housing choice vouchers 17,000 people long, and that's just for the public stuff! When you talk about the private affordable housing developers, their waitlists are just as long."
Those are lists Mackey knows all too well.
"It's a frustrating process," she said. "Can't give up though."
Mackey is a student at Sacramento City College, where she's studying graphic design. She hopes to illustrate and publish the children's books that she's writing.
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