Antioch Council approves hiring homeless coordinator on split vote, asks staff for costs on homeless solutions

Aerial photo of illegal RV park at 701 Wilbur Avenue. Photo by City of Antioch.

Postpones enforcement at illegal RV park; finalizes 70% pay raise; approves $75,000 for Veterans Memorial relocation

By Allen Payton

After discussion and debating for over an hour, at their Tuesday night Sept. 10th meeting, about recommendations by the Homeless Encampment Task Force, the Antioch City Council ended up giving staff direction to return to their first meeting in October with cost estimates for each of the proposals. Homeless Task Force Recommendations ACC091019

“So, we spent seven months on this process. We had things throughout the day posted on Facebook. We heard from a whole bunch of people,” Thorpe said. “I’m pretty pleased with the amount of feedback and engagement we received. The recommendations are in phases. But the comments…are absent of the progress that we’ve made and the discussions we’ve had. I understand people don’t always have the entire picture.”

“It’s very difficult…to serve you if you don’t have a place to live. It’s very difficult for county to get people into services if they’re living on the street. The federal government for the past four decades have been disinvesting in federal housing programs, whether it was Democrat or Republican administrations.”

“I’m a little bit, kind of confused,” Ogorchock said. “The Ad Hoc Committee is asking for certain things. Again, I’m kind of confused where to put my comments, whether it be on this item or the next (Unhoused Resident Coordinator). We have Teri House (the city’s grant management consultant), who works with the county and the consortium of care. We do have the CDBG grant monies and it’s not enough in there for the non-profits we work with.”

The plan is to discuss “our recommendations, and then put the position after that,” Thorpe explained.

“I had a good, long conversation with (Contra Costa County Health, Housing, and Homeless Services Director) Lavonna Martin, today,” Mayor Sean Wright stated. “To her statement she was only involved in the one (task force meeting) she attended. I asked her what she thought about these recommendations and she said she hadn’t seen them. So, I was surprised.”

“I don’t know what kind of conversation you had with her, but I am floored by that comment,” Thorpe responded. “We had four follow up meetings with Lavonna Martin. The county is not going to give us anything for people on the street. There is no capacity at any shelter. Call 2-1-1 and see if you can get housing. It’s not about what Lavonna Martin says.”

“She said she was not heavily involved in the recommendations, which was surprising to me,” Wright stated.

“The meetings were over the phone and the city manager was on the phone with us,” said Motts. “We asked her what we should do to get people off the streets, and she said, ‘shelter’. We took her expertise.”

Wright then mentioned “the consortium for the homeless at the county level,” and asked Teri House to speak.

“The Homeless Continuum of Care is where all the money flows into and out of for homeless,” House stated. “I wasn’t involved with coming up with those items, specifically. But I have a whole laundry list, without having to spend $120,000 to hire someone to come up with. I could rattle off a dozen things from $125,000 to $1 million. This is what we do all day long. I not only sit on the council for the homeless. I already have all the relationships with all the homeless agencies. I would be thrilled to provide you the laundry list of things you can spend funds on in the next two weeks, rather than wait months.

“And that’s the conversation I had with Lavonna…that this would be duplicating efforts by creating the position,” Wright stated.

“Maybe on down the line you might need to hire a coordinator,” House stated. “You can’t work outside of the Continuum of Care…so, if you want access to shelter beds…the Core team is the only ones who can get them into shelter beds. They’re currently filled with people who are extremely frail and vulnerable.”

“Lavonna wanted to make it clear, the concept of temporary. None of these things are temporary. We are taking on the obligation as a city permanently. Once you take them on, they become the fabric of what you take on as a city,” Wright added.

“If we set up a temporary camp for 100 and we have 300, we know there are 200 out there,” House explained. “We have to work on prevention for those who might become homeless.

“I spoke with Lavonna, today, as well. She reiterated the same thing,” Ogorchock said. “The library has agreed to become a warming center.”

“All the subsidy goes through the Continuum of Care,” House said. “All federal…state funds go through the Continuum of Care. That’s how HUD set it up. So, none of the funds will be coming to the city.

I am the federal grants, housing and homelessness consultant,” House said in response to a question by Ogorchock. Around $125,000 is spent on homelessness, each year, out of the Community Development Block Grant Funds.

“I would rather see this money to go to Teri, because she has all the connections. She has been doing this for 23 years. So, why would we want to reinvent the wheel,” Ogorchock stated.

“So, you are basically our HUD coordinator, so you have access to resources,” Councilwoman Monica Wilson asked. “Do you also work with our population for getting into direct services?”

“The city doesn’t do any of that,” House responded.

“What do you currently do?” Wilson asked

“The same thing everyone else does to get them into the system,” House said. “You call Core. We subcontract with all the non-profits.”

“I feel like something is missing in there, a key component,” Wilson stated. “If I’m homeless or a victim of sexual abuse, it’s easier for me to go to one point.”

“Oh, definitely,” House responded. “That’s why we want to get a care center built out here as soon as possible. There are beds in central county and Richmond. There’s nothing here in East County.”

“What you’re referring to is a care center, which we’re about two to three years away,” Motts stated. “So, you’re speaking of a continuum of care, how you can say we’ll be operating outside of that.”

“If you’re doing your own service delivery and you’re not doing it through the county…then you don’t have access to those shelters,” House explained.

“That’s what we planned to do. There are silos of all these people doing things but no one working together,” Motts said.

“There are services we can deliver outside of that…have Lavonna at the table to figure that out,” House stated.

“You spoke about it was shelter, first. Is that still your thought process?” Motts asked.

“Absolutely,” House responded. “You can’t get them all that they need…if they don’t have a stable place to be.”

Thorpe then spoke about “the temporary nature is showers, and toilets, laundry. That’s what we’re referring to when we say ‘temporary’. We’re getting away from the focus on housing. People need to get housed. So, if you didn’t do recommendation one or two, but just focused on housing.

“Teri, do you coordinate toilets in downtown?” asked Thorpe.

“No,” House replied.

“Do you coordinate showers?” he then asked.

“That’s something I could coordinate with Ron (Bernal),” said.

“Do you coordinate laundry?” Thorpe asked, again.

“Do we have that in the city? That’s something we can do,” House replied.

“Your warming centers, your care centers are not a housing solution. I don’t need anyone to verify that,” Thorpe stated. “We are not looking to duplicate the Continuum of Care. It’s not written anywhere. This position is specifically

“I didn’t ask for $120,000. I didn’t ask for a position. I asked for a consultant. City staff did that.”

“All we’re trying to do is get people into housing. The ultimate goal is housing,” he exclaimed.

“Lavonna Martin said, a consultant would be duplicative of what we have done,” Wright said. “If we’re going to put housing first, a cot-type of housing, to run a 100 cot, it would cost $1.5 million. Is that what we’re asking?”

“A cot?” asked Thorpe. “No. A transitional shelter then permanent housing. The entry points to go through services is to get you to permanent housing. If the county isn’t going to provide them housing, then we have to provide the housing.”

“There are many things communities are doing,” Motts stated.

“The difference between finding immediate shelter versus transitional housing, where it be converted shipping containers or ToughSheds,” Thorpe said.

“Our county doesn’t have enough housing stock,” House said. “Studio apartments is where you start. We simply don’t have enough housing stock for single individuals. So, they’re looking at

“In a housing first model, is there something we as a city can do that you aren’t already doing?” Wright asked.

“Money,” House responded. “There is a dozen and one idea. Case management. Helping them with a search. Working with a non-profit agency that can get them a master lease for that unit.”

“The stock is the issue, if there is no stock and that’s the model we push for,” Wright said. “A cot model at $1.5 million. That does not become temporary. There is constant homeless coming in.”

“We have more inflows in our system of care than outflows,” she responded.

“I agree with everything you just said,” Thorpe said.

“Until I see hard numbers in front of me…I can’t just blindly say ‘yes, let’s move forward’,” Wright stated.

“We can get you that information within two weeks,” House said.

Ogorchock asked about working with the Interfaith Council and offering parking spaces for safe places at night.

“We’ve been coordinating with the Interfaith Council for the churches to provide shelter,” House responded.

“These are temporary things and we do need housing to put people back into homes,” Ogorchock stated. “Some of these things shouldn’t be temporary. The garbage bins, bathrooms. Some of these should be permanent.”

“When I was homeless that was the constant thing, trying to find a public restroom to use before I went to work,” House stated.

Wright asked Bernal what the city is already doing, with regards to the two portable toilets in downtown.

“They’re working well,” Bernal responded.

Wright then asked the City Attorney about a “no camping ordinance”.

“We can’t enforce that, correct?” he asked.

“I believe your analysis is correct,” City Attorney Thomas Smith responded.

“We need someone to coordinate this,” Motts stated. “Some place for safe parking. There are people living in cars and RV’s all over our community. People talk about how there is human waste affecting our economic viability. But we need someone coordinating that effort. Whether it’s a housing coordinator or it’s you, I don’t really care.”

“We’re spending money and it’s not going anywhere,” she stated. “Either we want to fix this or we don’t and it’s going to cost us money.”

“We can put out an RFP and hire somebody to coordinate this. Whether you need a full-time coordinator to do this or we can do the things through the non-profits,” House said.

“Lavonna Martin said if she could find a city that would come up with the money, she would coordinate that,” Wright stated.

“But, it’s her model,” Thorpe responded. “We posed the same thing to Lavonna. If we gave her money to accommodate Antioch, it would not go to housing.”

“Richmond went to her and said if we give you this money will you coordinate it, and she did,” Wright said.

“Can you put something together quickly, within the next two weeks and bring it before council?” Ogorchock asked.

“I’d like to think of these things as principles and we would look at them from different approaches,” Thorpe said. “Who does it I could care less. Which direction we go in, I don’t think that should be delayed.”

“I’m not willing to blanketly say ‘let’s do all this’,” Wright said. “I’m willing to go down this road and look at all these things.”

“So, would this be a problem to bring things back in the next two weeks? I want to move forward on this,” Ogorchock said.

“If that’s not the direction Ron wants to go in,” Thorpe said.

“I’d like to discuss Teri’s current responsibility with the Community Development Director,” Bernal said. “My understanding is to go fast. Some of these things will come back, which we can go faster. There’s a lot of research from an infrastructure standpoint. The council wasn’t going to make any decisions, tonight.”

“We’re giving direction, we’re not deciding immediate actions” as the agenda item was written, Wright said.

“I agree with the mayor on that,” Ogorchock said.

“We’re not committing to anything but the principles,” Thorpe said. “Ron said it beautifully. I’m prepared, if you, Joy are prepared to make a motion.”

“I do agree that the wording of this is problematic,” Smith interjected. Because the way it reads is that action is supposed to be taken. There’s a whole lot of information missing of what that consists of.”

“We’re just adopting, here’s the concept, we like it,” Thorpe said.

“If you case it in a direction, that would be better,” Smith stated. “If there is to be some action taken, we can bring that back.”

“What I think I would like to do…if Teri has the capacity, for her to come back with a report at the next council meeting,” then from there make a decision on further pursuing these,” Bernal said. “It’s my understanding, Teri has a full plate. This takes a consultant, a part-time commitment. It can’t be hit or miss, to work for two weeks, then take time off.”

“My concern is we’re heading into winter and the longer people will be on the streets,” Motts said. “The sooner the better.”

“I don’t want to get to the point of overanalyzing,” Wilson stated. “If two council members aren’t here, let’s still move forward. I don’t want to be here, a year from now and nothing has been done. Maybe with the help of the ad hoc committee, Teri, we can get it done in 48 hours.”

“To me, I’m excited, it sounds like we’re moving forward,” Thorpe said.

Ultimately the council gave staff unofficial direction, without a vote, to come back with costs for each of the recommendations at the first council meeting in October.

Approves Unhoused Resident Coordinator Position

During the agenda item on creating a new, Unhoused Resident Coordinator, city staff spoke first. Unhoused Resident Coordinator ACC091019

“It really didn’t click to do it as a consultant,” said Nickie Mastay, during her staff report. “Other cities don’t have all the responsibilities in one position. Richmond…Concord…BART have separate positions.

“The reason we were pretty adamant to have a consultant because we didn’t want to go through the hiring process, which takes time,” Thorpe said. “I’m still for this. It doesn’t have to be a position. I would like the city manager to move as quickly as possible on this.”

“Are you still recommending we have a resident coordinator,” Motts asked Thorpe.

“I’m recommending a consultant to get moving quickly,” he responded.

“Teri already has many reports,” Wright said. “With that we can spend less money on a consultant than what we’re actually delivering to the homeless.”

“We’re talking about coordinating things, not producing reports,” Thorpe said.

“The first thing to do is a feasibility study. I want to see the reports already produced,” Wright responded. “I would rather wait to see we have that full-on need before we approve that.”

“I’m still lost in your thinking,” Thorpe said. “As an example, Ron did all the work for coordinating the port-a-potties. That’s something the coordinator would do. I’m not asking the county to do anything. We will identify properties. I’m not clear how the county fits in on all that. That’s why I’m comfortable with moving forward.

“I’m not saying not never, but that’s just me,”

“This is duplicative of things we just discussed in Item 5,” Ogorchock said. “If Teri is the person to do that, we will see that in the next meeting. I would rather see this money go to…housing.”

“I see both points of view, here,” Motts said. “There was no collaborative. There was no one place for non-profits, anybody to go to deal with homelessness and all the other problems that go along with that. There are all these agencies, there’s no cohesive effort within the City of Antioch. Teri already has a full plate. I’m thrilled she’s willing to do all of the analysis. But, going forward we need to have somebody in place. Not a permanent position.”

“I think when Teri brings back her recommendations, she will say you need someone to oversee this or oversee that,” Wright said.

“For any consultant, how long is the process…before this person comes on board?” Wilson asked Mastay.

“It could be as little as two weeks. We usually do it for one month,” Mastay responded.

“Teri could come back with her report and we could make adjustments to that,” Wilson said.

“Because we declared a homeless emergency, we voted 5-0, we don’t want to go through this long process,” Thorpe said.

“It could be a sole-source decision,” Bernal said. “If it’s more than $50,000 then it would have to come back to council.”

“I don’t know if it qualifies for a sole-source,” Attorney Smith said.

Thorpe then attempted to move approval of creating the position of Unhoused Resident Coordinator as a consultant with the hourly and maximum annual pay, which opened up a further discussion and debate.

“I’d like to not include the salary range, as that’s not enough to hire an outside consultant,” Bernal stated.

“Do we have to know how much we’re going to spend?” Wright asked.

“Two things would probably be helpful, a per hour cap and a total amount the council is dedicating to the position,” said Smith.

“Yes, that is correct, either an hourly range or a total commitment,” Mastay said.

“I would say up to $100,000,” Bernal stated.

Thorpe then made the motion to approve the position as a consultant, with pay of $50 to $60 per hour and a maximum of $100,000. It passed 3-2 with Wright and Ogorchock voting against.

Postpones Enforcement of Illegal RV Park

On a third homeless-related item during Tuesday night’s meeting, the Antioch City Council postponed enforcing the city’s codes at an illegal RV park at 701 Wilbur Avenue. Illegal RV Park Enforcement ACC091019

City Manager Ron Bernal asked if the council wanted him to look for other locations where the residents could relocate their RV’s or to help rezone the property to allow for it to be an RV park.

“It’s the city’s goal to not displace people, but the city has ordinances to uphold,” Bernal stated.

“I personally don’t want to see these people moved out on October 1st,’ Wright said. “So, I support the recommendations.

“I support the recommendations, but I’m not sure of this effort to help them locate somewhere else,” Thorpe said. “The idea that we would be nice and put them somewhere else (and pay market rate prices). We do have rules, but at the same time we have to keep people where they’re asking to be at. With clarification that ‘we’ did not do this.”

“I’m for the recommendations, but my fear is if we don’t work on this, it would open up other parts of the city for this,” Ogorchock stated.

Wilson agreed and was concerned about putting the residents “back on the street.”

“It’s ridiculous to think we would find a more affordable place for them to stay,” Motts said. “We absolutely have to give an extension on this action to vacate.”

“The extension is not part of what is encapsulated in this agenda item, today,” Attorney Smith said.

“Our number one goal is to rezone or create an overlay,” Thorpe added.

“This is October 1st, so are we going to expedite the process so we find solutions, here?” Motts asked.

“I can’t guarantee we’ll be done by October 1st,” Bernal said.

“The city manager has discretion, under exigent circumstances, around this,” said Smith.

“Citations issued on October 1st can be appealed to the Board of Administrative Appeals and then to the City Council,” said Community Development Director Forrest Ebbs.

“Only a member of the city council

“We’re not kicking these people out before council, OK?” Wright said, to applause form the audience. “I’m not. That’s not a voted on motion. I’m just making myself heard.”

Council Members Pay Raise Finalized

The issue returned to the council agenda for a second and final reading. (See related article from previous council meeting).

“I would ask that the city council reconsider their decision from the last meeting” said Councilwoman Lori Ogorchock. “I suggest a 5% increase beginning in 2021 and 5% each year thereafter.”

“This would be the first increase for the Antioch City Council in 13 years,” said City Attorney Thomas Smith. “The two cities closest in size, Concord and Richmond, currently pay more in council salaries.”

“You can’t automatically have a pay raise,” Councilman Lamar Thorpe said.

“There is no automatic raise,” Thomas confirmed.

With that Thorpe made the motion to approve the pay raise and it passed on a 4-1 vote, with Ogorchock voting against.

Council Approves Budget for Veterans Memorial Relocation

After settling the controversy over locating new, public restrooms next to the Veterans Memorial at the entrance to the Antioch Marina, the council approved spending $75,000 to relocate the memorial. It will be located into the center of the roundabout at the entrance to the marina and boat launch.

Although the council was hoping to have it completed in time for this year’s Veterans Day celebration on November 11th, city staff said they wouldn’t be able to achieve that goal.

Instead, J.R. Wilson of the Delta Veterans Group who led the effort to relocate the memorial, suggested a celebration event once the new site was completed.

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2 Comments to “Antioch Council approves hiring homeless coordinator on split vote, asks staff for costs on homeless solutions”

  1. Eleanor O'Donnell says:

    Again, our Mayor and city council provide us with nothing. What a bunch of clowns! Instead of increasing a salary, they should be fined for taking up space. Antioch has had some unbelievable idiots on the city council in the last 80 years, but with the exception of Lori, these guys take the prize.

  2. Ramona Mayon says:

    I resent a tenants’ rights crisis being lumped in with the impact of homelessness. You are being manipulated by the council’s clever attempt to mask their failure to deal properly with Joe Bosman’s more than two dozen tenants (some displaced, some still th here).

    Lamar Thorpe said re. 701 Wilbur Avenue: “clarification that ‘we’ did not do this.”

    I would beg to disagree. You all knew we were out there. Joe Bosman says in the East Bay Times article of 9.09.19 that in 2007 Code Enforcement came out and did nothing. Councilmember Lori Ogorchock admits in a hearing in 2017 that she visited the property on 11.08.16

    In 2016, when the City approved an apartment complex, staff report calls it a “vacant lot”.

    In 2017, when Code Enforcement “discovered” the park, in that staff report, we were called blight with illegal housing.

    Two weeks ago, this long-simmering issue was slipped in under “homeless encampments”.

    Now at least, as a result of the lawsuit my husband and I filed 18 months ago, Mayon v. Bosman/ City of Antioch, the staff is being forced to reconsider the outcome originally planned for our friends and former neighbors.

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