Antioch Council agrees to list of solutions for homelessness in city

From the Antioch Homeless Encampment Task Force Facebook page.

Will consider approving budget costs at next meeting in November

By Allen Payton

At their meeting on Tuesday night, Oct. 22, the Antioch City Council received reports on homelessness and impediments to fair housing and by consensus, approved a list of solutions.

First, the Council voted unanimously to adopt the 2020-25 Analysis of Impediments to Fair Housing Choice. They then received a report on the 2020-25 Consolidated Plan Needs Analysis on Housing and Homelessness by Teri House, Antioch’s Community Development Block Grant and Housing Consultant. See report, here: Housing & Homelessness Needs Assessment

She quoted the report, stating “Communities where people spend more than 32% of their income on rent can expect a more rapid increase in homelessness.”

The report shows over 51% of households in Antioch are facing at least one of the following housing problems: lacks kitchen; lacks complete plumbing; severe overcrowding; or sever cost burden.

House spoke of those residents who are rent burdened by paying more than 30% of their income toward housing and severely rent burdened by paying more than 50%.

“Black households are almost twice as severe rent burdened as white households,” she stated.

“Only 56% of our households are not lower income by HUD’s standards,” House said about Antioch.

“Contra Costa County needs another 31,000 affordable housing units to meet the needs of low-income residents in the county,” she said, according to the report.

The county’s solutions to the homelessness problem includes the goal of building 5,000 new housing units in the county that will “remain affordable forever”.

In Antioch, according to a survey, residents said two of the greatest barriers to housing and services are: Agencies lack sufficient capacity/resources, lack of services and lack of housing.

Solutions include financial assistance, job development, housing services for special needs and foster youth, sanctioned encampments, mobile showers, port-a-potties, and safe parking, more shelter beds and cities to provide land to build emergency housing.

No members of the public spoke.

Mayor Pro Tem Joy Motts asked, “are there parameters for non-profits who want to apply for the grants?”

“We like to fund all of our non-profits with $10,000. But…we can go down to $5,000,” House responded.

Councilwoman Lori Ogorchock thanked House for the report and mentioned the part about victims of domestic violence that was included in the report.

No council action was required on the report.

List of Solutions in Antioch

However, during a separate agenda item, the council approved a list of solutions to the homelessness problem in the city. The funding for each will be considered at their next meeting in November. The list was developed following several meetings by the council’s Homeless Encampment Ad Hoc Committee, with recommendations from the public, and discussion by the entire council at one of their meetings in September.

The first principle upon which the list of items was determined, included health and safety issues of “human waste, the needles and trash,” said City Manager Ron Bernal. The second principle was the immediate, short term shelter needs during the winter months. The third principle is the long-term housing needs.”

The list is not all encompassing, he added.

The solutions include dumpster and Sharps containers, near homeless encampments, so the needles can be collected and disposed of in a safer manner.

“The city has installed three port-a-potties in Antioch, at a cost of $400 per month per location. We’ve absorbed it into our budget up until, now,” Bernal shared.

Another discussion is portable shower units, and he referred to Shower House Ministries, which also provides clean clothes to homeless.

“Another way would be to provide vouchers so people can go to laundromats. I estimated a budget of $10,000 as a starting point,” he stated. “The city

“Motel services in the form of vouchers could be issued to folks. Approximately $100 per night would be adequate. We don’t know the availability in Antioch. The estimate to jump start that would be $10,000.

“The warming centers and shelters have mostly been provided by the faith-based community which open up their facilities during the winter months,” Bernal mentioned.

“The county is working to purchase land and put together a warming center. But, that’s a couple years out,” he said. “The Antioch Library is being considered as a warming center…from November through June for families, during the winter and through the end of the school year. The cost estimate would be $250,000 which would serve 10 to 15 people per night.”

“A safe parking lot program would cost about $35,000 through the spring of next year and serve 35 to 50 people per day,” Bernal added.

Long Term Solutions

The city council could provide more funding to help people transition out of homelessness, which could be done through the county through the Continuum of Care.

He mentioned Tough Sheds or other forms of low-cost housing but, wanted to wait until the Unhoused Resident Coordinator was hired and in place.

Public Comments

Nichole Gardner was the first to speak during public comments.

“I wanted to make the five of you a promise. If you fail to face homelessness…head on…we advocates will do whatever we can to make sure you are not in that seat come 2021,” she said. “Please believe these voices will be heard. You will be held accountable for your actions.”

Last year I cried during the winter months. I felt hopeless. Tonight, I feel hopeful,” Gardner continued.

“You won’t see us coming for Sean Wright. But we will come after Mayor Wright. Not only do the homeless and advocates want the homeless off the streets, but the business owners do, too. Shelter and housing is the best way to get that done.”

One speaker who was a victim of domestic violence, who said her boyfriend killed her daughter, shared about her own experience of addiction and homelessness and desire to start a program for homeless.

“I was never on the streets, in a tent,” she shared, because she was able to stay in motels. “So, I don’t know how it feels to be on the streets.”

Jimmy Gordon, “I’m a recovering addict. The first is still at-risk citizens at 701 Wilbur Lane (a non-sanctioned RV park). The second reason I’m here is to advocate for homeless on the street. The man who let me move in at 701 Wilbur gave me respect and held me accountable. Not everyone who is homeless are dope fiends, running around. Some are out there. But, some of us just want a hand up. Please, please keep it going. I’m just a mere person. But, I’m a person with a vote and I am registered. I want to see where your compassion and your love for your fellow man.”

Leonard Hernandez was next to speak, saying, “The dumpsters. Thank you for the dumpsters. They’re popping up. It’s good. They’re filling them up. Unfortunately, some people are putting washers and dryers in there, which aren’t from the homeless. But at least they’re not being dumped on the highways.”

“Sycamore, you’d be surprised. We probably have 15 of the homeless people there cleaning all along the railroad tracks. Thank you for the orange garbage bags. They need to be thicker.

“You know we have 300 children who are in the Antioch Unified School District that are homeless, which should not be,” he stated.

“Port-a-potties are popping up. There could be more. We’ll see what we could do.”

Councilman Lamar Thorpe was first to speak, saying “The ‘thank yous’ go to those who came to our ad hoc committee. What we’re talking about, today are what the residents of Antioch asked us to look into. I’m for most of these things. In the areas where we’re talking about the showers, I have some concerns. We have facilities throughout the city that aren’t being used for two-thirds of the year that have showers. Thank you, Ron for the pause on the challenging task that will be the permanent and transitional housing. I think it’s going to be a huge proposition.

Motts then suggested the council go through the recommendations, one by one.

Before that happened, Councilwoman Monica Wilson said, “yes, hold us accountable” and reiterated what Thorpe mentioned about using facilities that are underused.

Ogorchock said, “I too, want to go through theses.”

Option #1 – Providing Dumpsters where needed and Sharps

“I’m for that,” said Thorpe.

“We may want to expand on that,” Motts said.

“It’s where staff sees the need is,” Wright said.

“If they are out and about more people will use them than the people intended,” Ogorchock shared.

#2 – Portable Toilets

“I’m for that,” Thorpe said, again.

Motts suggested adding them to the area near the Main Post Office.

“I would ask that go back to staff and Code Enforcement, as they know where the need is at,” Ogorchock stated.

“We have to use public property,” Community Development Director Forrest Ebbs pointed out.

#3 – Portable Shower Units

Ogorchock thanked the coordinator for Shower House Ministries, and mentioned White Pony Express, which might offer that, as well.

“We’re not committing to any one organization, only committing an amount, then staff will go out and see what to do,” Thorpe stated.

#4 – Laundry Services

Providing a mobile laundry service at a cost of $100,000.

“I’m for a voucher program,” Ogorchock stated. Thorpe agreed, “until we get the Unhoused Resident Coordinator in place.”

Immediate Short-Term Shelter

#5 – Motel Services

“It will help those in short term need at a cost of $10,000,” Wright said. “There are a lot of women and children in need and as I’ve tried to help them, there is no place for them to go.”

“How do we make sure who we’re helping are Antioch residents?” he asked.

“You’re an Antioch resident when you’re standing, here,” Ebbs responded. “We have a fluid, itinerant housing population, here. I don’t know how we would go about determining who is and isn’t an Antioch resident.”

Ogorchock suggested using Shelter, Inc. to distribute the vouchers and determine residency.

“The city running their own motel voucher service brings up liability issues,” Ebbs said. “There are folks who deal in motel vouchers.”

LaVonna Martin from the county was asked to address the issue.

“There are agencies who issue motel vouchers,” she said. They’re issued to people receiving the services.

“They only allow three to five days, then fall back into homelessness,” she added.

“Is there a way to help it not be so temporary?” Wright asked.

“There are also laws when it comes to tenancy. You can’t stay more than 28 days,” Martin said. “That’s why they’re usually seven days or less…for them to get a plan in place.”

“Can people stay in one motel then go to another?” Ogorchock asked.

“You’re talking about musical motel rooms,” Martin responded. “It helps if they can move from one room to another. But its inconvenient for families to pack up and move.”

“The police department can put people up…on a case by case basis with discretionary funds,” Martin explained, responding to a question by Councilman Thorpe.

“When it comes to this, we can think of all kinds of reasons it can be difficult, on a cold, winter night…if we’re talking about an initial cost of $10,000…I recommend we go forward with it,” Motts shared.

“If we do it outside of the Continuum of Care there are no follow up services,” Ogorchock said.

“$10,000 goes very quickly, if we’re talking about a motel/hotel voucher,” Martin stated. “Out here..they go for $85 a night.”

“The intent behind this is not to use motels as transitional housing, it was to be emergency housing, if the police find someone who is old or frail on the streets,” Ebbs stated.

#6 – Warming Centers

“It isn’t a different program. Yes, last year we went through a community process,” Martin explained. “Those buildings that aren’t typically used in the evening. The Antioch Library allowed the use of their building for families to come in during the winter months. Unfortunately, we could not find an operator. Once, again we would be happy to explore that for families or individuals who are experiencing homelessness to come in.”

“Last year, the funding on this came from the county. This year the funding would come from our General Fund,” Wright said.

“$250,000 for 10 to 15 persons,” Motts said. “I’d rather work with our faith-based organizations…and try to take advantage of that. We also have facilities, here that are city owned.”

“Whether it be a city facility or not, the cost would be the same,” Wright responded.

“Most of the funds are start up costs, the tents…” Martin said. “But that picture would be different if you use volunteers, when the faith-based community comes in. We have great faith-based communities, here that already know what to do.”

“The Winter Nights Program is using faith based facilities,” she shared, in response to a comment by Mayor Pro Tem Motts. “They’re just two different models.”

“I think we can pursue the Winter Nights Program working with the faith-based communities,” Ebbs said, in response to Wright’s comments in favor of using that instead

“We have facilities we never use. The Nick Rodriguez Center…the Water Park sits empty two-thirds of the year. I’m not for giving someone rent when we have the facilities. What we’re trying to do is get people off the streets. I understand connecting them to services. But we shouldn’t keep that from getting people into shelter, overnight.”

“The library has no intent of charging rent,” Martin stated. “It’s a matter of staffing. You have labor laws with people working more than eight hours.”

“You still have to get cots, someone to maintain the facilities,” Ogorchock pointed out. “You can’t have families and men in the same facility. So, we need separate facilities. I would not count this out. I think we should look at the number (cost) for the program.”

“None of these suggestions are in our out, they’re still accessible, they’re not two separate things,” Thorpe said. “People will have access to the Continuum of Care.”

Wright summed it up that there is support for the idea, with the request for better cost estimates.

#7 – Safe Parking Lots

“The city owns several parking lots in the downtown area,” Ebbs said. “I can think of three or four. I don’t want to panic anyone by announcing that, tonight. The city owns several lots throughout the city.”

“I think this is critical,” Motts said. “Trying to find a safe place to stay every night, especially for families…”

“I’m for this,” Thorpe said.

“Yes,” said Wilson.

“As we look to the Unhoused Coordinator, we will be looking for more long-term solutions,” Wright said.

“I wanted everyone to have these in mind, that we’re looking at long-term solutions,” Ebbs interjected.

“Lots of people are falling into homelessness and many more are just on the edge,” Motts said. “My recommendation is as soon as we get the coordinator on, they be looking into all the options, and other programs around the state.”

No motion was made but, Bernal asked to have the budget items to come back at the next meeting, as “we don’t have the cumulative for all this.”

“This is not going to eliminate all the encampments,” Thorpe stated.

“But I think it is important to point out all of these were brought out in our meetings,” Motts said.

“I am concerned that the seniors…how we can keep them in their homes,” Ogorchock added.

 

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Housing & Homelessness Needs Assessment


2 Comments to “Antioch Council agrees to list of solutions for homelessness in city”

  1. Ramona Mayon says:

    I barely know where to begin to express my outrage. The Council continues to avoid dealing with the remaining tenants at 701 Wilbur Avenue, who again and again show up, hat in hand begging for information as to their future residence. At the end of the meeting, the Mayor flung out the announcement that there be no evictions at Christmas. So that naturally begs the question: what’s in store for January 2020?

    Our lawsuit, Mayon v Bosman and the City of Antioch, et al #C18-00168 wi have a tentative ruling come out at 1.30pm Contra Costa Court/ Martinez (online) #Dept 33 and it will address the immunity of the City re. our housing rights. We are self-represented. Case was filed 1.26.18. Blogging about it at http://www.oldwilburvineyards.wordpress.com

    As an ethnic gypsy, the mere phrase “Safe Parking Lot” makes my skin crawl. Who is being kept safe from whom?

    $35,000 for ONLY four months of watching 35 to 50 RVs at night and then throwing them back out every morning to the daily harassment that is life on Antioch’s streets. The sheer amount of gas it would take. No thanks, we will stick to the quiet alleys and industrial roads. It’s insulting to be segregated like they are proposing.

    During the 8.27.19 Council hearing, the same tenant as above, Jimmie Gordon, speaks, but afterwards, the Clerk who wrote the so-called “mini-minutes”, he said Mr. Gordon was speaking (8.27.19) on behalf of the “homeless community “. Excuse me, but the last time we paid Joe Bosman rent (Dec 2017), the bill was over $800 and our income is an SSI couples’ $1589. More than half. Since when does a homeless person pay more than half their income in rent? Are they really “homeless” if they are paying rent? No, what’s happening here is the sight of old RVs being used by poor people (almost all seniors) produced a knee jerk reaction by all observers.

    Pure prejudice.

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