Archive for the ‘Homeless’ Category

County eyes MicroPAD miniature homes as new tool to reduce homelessness

Wednesday, November 15th, 2017

A MicroPAD miniature home can be towed to its location. Photos from Panoramic Interests website.

By Daniel Borsuk

Perhaps by this time next year, Contra Costa County officials will be offering MicroPADs as a new alternate form of housing in its repertoire of programs designed to reduce homelessness, a major economic and social issue that is, at least in this East Bay county showing signs of fading away.

Rendering of a MicroPAD interior.

The number of homeless individuals in the county declined seven percent from 2016 to 1,607 homeless persons as of Jan. 25, 2017, an annual report stated and accepted by the supervisors on a 3-0 vote at Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting.

Board chair Federal Glover was absent due to a death in the family and Supervisor Diane Burgis of Brentwood was absent because she was recovering from a surgical procedure.

The county’s success in decreasing the number of homeless individuals or families living outdoors or in cars can be credited to the county’s wide array of federal and state funded programs and services worth $15 million last year.  Those services range from emergency shelters, support services only, transitional housing, rapid rehousing, permanent supportive housing, street outreach and preventive programs.

MicroPAD interior view.

Next month the county expects to learn how much money it will receive from the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development in its newest service designed to further drive down homelessness – the MicroPAD, said Lavonna Martin, Director of Contra Costa County Health, Housing and Homeless Services.

The MicroPAD miniature, stackable home is a relatively new weapon in the fight against homelessness.  It is now in use in San Francisco, a city and county well known for its high cost of housing and homeless population problems.

Each 160-square foot modular prefabricated dwelling unit comes with a furnished bedroom, private bathroom, and kitchenette.  In Contra Costa, in order for a homeless individual to be eligible to occupy a MicroPAD he or she would have to pay 30 percent of their monthly income (i.e. SSI) towards rent, said Martin.

Contra Costa County could have as many as 50 MicroPADs available for eligible homeless persons.

Supervisors wanted to know if a site had been selected to place the MicroPADs, but the county homeless director said that a site has not been selected even though the county and City of Richmond were co-sponsoring a presentation at the same time the Board of Supervisors meeting was in session.  At the Richmond Civic Center presentation, a MicroPAD was on display for the public to see.  A similar MicroPAD presentation was conducted on Wednesday at the Richmond Civic Center.

Another interior view of a MicroPAD miniature home.

District 1 Supervisor John Gioia of Richmond was slated to appear at Tuesday’s civic center presentation following the board meeting.

“We do not have a site set yet,” Martin told supervisors.  “We’ll be working on that over the next few months.”

“It’s going to be challenging to find the right location,” acknowledged Gioia.  “The homeless will not get off the street if you offer them shelter, but this (i.e. MicroPADs) will get them off the street because it is housing.  The challenge will be finding an appropriate location.”

Supervisor Candace Andersen of Danville was also supportive of the MicroPAD concept that the county is pursuing.  “What can we do to effect a positive situation?” she asked.  “I am excited about the MicroPAD program with its small units and the support services that will be available for occupants.”

To view a news report by KRON 4 TV news with video of a MicroPAD home, click here. To learn more about MicroPADs click here.

Supervisors Accept Winter Storm Preparedness Report

During the Tuesday meeting, Supervisors also approved a report that the county is prepared for whatever amount of rainfall this winter season will bring.  The report on Winter Storm Preparedness in Contra Costa County was presented by Tim Jensen of the Public Works Department.

The report highlighted Walnut Creek Intermediate School’s “Stay Out Stay Alive” publicity campaign to warn students and the public about the dangers of Walnut Creek especially when it is full of raging water during a major rain storm.  Two years ago, two persons died when they fell into the rain swollen creek that that bisects the school.

The report also informed the public about the county’s sand bag stations, media outreach, newsletter, and flood control district webpage – http://www.cccounty.us/5906FloodPreparedness

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County’s annual homelessness count shows drop in number, shifting population

Friday, July 14th, 2017

Contra Costa’s annual survey to document people experiencing homelessness showed a 7 percent drop overall in 2017 compared to last year, but a substantial rise in Central County, according to a report released by Contra Costa Health Services’ Division of Health, Housing and Homeless Services (H3).

H3 and its community partners, including many volunteers, surveyed county residents living in emergency shelters or outdoors on Jan. 25 and released detailed findings this week in the 2017 Point in Time Count report, available at ccheath.org/h3

The report shows that 1,607 people without housing during that 24-hour period were counted, including 911 who were living outside. About 1,100 were documented living outside in 2016.

“We are glad that we found fewer people experiencing homelessness. But there is a great deal more work to be done, and the housing market makes it more difficult,” H3 Director Lavonna Martin said. “It’s not surprising that 80 percent of those we surveyed lost their housing right here in Contra Costa County.”

Substantially more people were counted this year in central Contra Costa – 331 living outdoors without shelter – after an atypically low count in 2016. Numbers did decline elsewhere, including East County, which had experienced a 30 percent increase from 2015 to 2016.

Since the count, H3 and the Contra Costa Council on Homelessness have launched Coordinated Entry, a new initiative to streamline service delivery and enhance collaboration among the county’s network of nonprofit, faith-based and government providers of homeless services.

Concord, Martinez, Pleasant Hill and Walnut Creek all joined the effort this spring. Martinez and Pleasant Hill split the cost of a full-time, county-operated outreach team to connect homeless residents within their borders with shelter and services. Concord and Walnut Creek are splitting the cost of a second team, and Contra Costa’s Public Works Department also funds a team for the county’s creeks and waterways.

Those city-specific Coordinated Outreach, Referral and Engagement (CORE) teams join three other CORE teams that operate elsewhere in the county. Other elements of Coordinated Entry include:

• Regional service centers connecting clients to shelter, medical and mental health care, case managers, substance use disorder treatment and services, benefit counselors, and long-term housing;

• Overnight warming centers that supplement existing emergency shelters;

• A universal, web-based information management system used by all providers of homeless services in the county to maximize use of their collective resources;

• A standardized intake and assessment system that streamlines delivery of housing and other services to the most vulnerable clients.

Coordinated Entry is funded in part through $1.2 million in grants from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Contra Costa’s point-in-time count also fulfills a HUD requirement to document the extent of homelessness within jurisdictions receiving its funding.

Visit cchealth.org/h3 to read the 2017 Point-in-Time Count report.

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County Board of Education recognizes November as National Homeless Youth Awareness Month

Friday, November 4th, 2016

At the October 19th Board Meeting, the board approved a resolution to recognize and raise awareness of the issue of youth homelessness.  The goal of the resolution is to highlight the issue of youth homelessness within the county and our schools. Currently, Contra Costa County has over 3,000 children and youth living in homeless situations, as reported by the county school districts, charter schools and the Contra Costa Council on Homelessness. This includes children ages 0-5 and students in grades Kindergarten through 12.

In California, more than 298,000 youth up to the age of 18 experience homelessness each year. During November all students, schools and community members are encouraged to engage in discussions on this topic to raise awareness.

Below are some suggested activities for school sites:

  • Send a flyer home with students or create a display to inform students and families of homeless education rights and resources available at your school and in Contra Costa County.
  • Make a presentation to school teachers, staff and board members to raise awareness of homelessness in your community or school district.
  • Organize a food drive and donate to the local food bank or pantry.
  • Make a donation or volunteer at a local shelter.
  • Participate in Contra Costa Community Donation Day on November 19th.

The Contra Costa County Office of Education (Education for Homeless Children and Youth Program) coordinates the following:

  • Provides technical assistance regarding the proper identification, enrollment, and service needs of homeless students and their families.
  • Conducts professional development trainings for school personnel and community agencies regarding the rights and responsibilities of homeless students.
  • Educates students, parents and guardians on their educational rights, and promotes their participation in school-related activities.
  • Facilitates the school enrollment process to ensure equal access to educational services, free-or-reduced price meals, tutoring or other programs.
  • Assists unaccompanied youth with enrollment procedures, school placement options, and retrieval of records.
  • Provides assistance with transportation, backpacks, school supplies and clothing.
  • Provides medical, dental, and mental health referrals, in addition to other school/community services.
  • Provides assistance to specialized populations of homeless students, including pre-schoolers, homeless teen parents, children with special needs, and unaccompanied youth.

For more information, contact CCCOE’s Education for Homeless Children and Youth program at (925) 942-3300.

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Antioch Council hears blight and homelessness report, gives go ahead for Sycamore area apartments rehab

Thursday, October 20th, 2016

By Nick Goodrich

On Tuesday, October 11th, the Antioch City Council heard a report on the city’s ongoing efforts to combat blight and homelessness, and also oversaw a public hearing concerning the proposed financing of the Delta Pines Apartments.

Public Comments

During public comments at the beginning of the meeting, and the Council once again heard from Save the Yard supporters, as well as a few Antioch business owners.

Joy Motts, a leader in the Save the Yard effort, read aloud from the city’s General Plan, which presented Antioch’s waterfront as a possible “major attraction.” She and several others expressed their frustration that the city had decided to build townhomes on the property, rather than a park and event center.

“The Beede Lumber Yard is a perfect place for a park,” Motts said. “Houses are not a legacy that anyone will remember you for. It’s time that you incorporate a public discussion into the decision of the Beede Lumber Yard.”

Two business owners in downtown Antioch also spoke before the Council on the state of the city.

Antioch resident Jim Lanter, a 12-year downtown business owner, listed several concerns, including the state of downtown at night, and blight affecting much of the surrounding area. He suggested installing better lighting to make people feel safer in downtown Antioch at night, and encourage businesses to stay open later.

Nicholas Olivier, owner of Urban Jumble in downtown Antioch, agreed with Lanter. He asked for increased police presence downtown, especially at night.

“Downtown is beginning to grow, but we definitely need help,” he said.

Efforts to Eradicate Blight & Homelessness

Ron Bernal, Assistant City Manager and Director of Public Works for the city, was on hand to give the report on blight and homelessness to the Council. He noted that the 2008 recession had contributed greatly to the blight problem by leaving behind a number of neglected residential properties and vacant buildings of businesses that were forced to close their doors.

The city was forced to shut down its Code Enforcement department and let go several park and street workers who had previously helped keep Antioch clean.

Since that time, the city has gradually built up the department, including the hiring of three new Code Enforcement Officers, one technician, and two laborers. The city has also reinstated the 40-hour work week, allowing Code Enforcement to do more each week.

In addition, Bernal reported that the Antioch Police Department’s hiring of an outside company – SP Plus Corp. – to ticket and tow vehicles, has seen great success. In the past six months, 528 unregistered, inoperable, or illegally parked vehicles were removed from Antioch’s streets.

The Council recently approved a three-year extension of the contract with SP Plus Corp. Bernal cited several other successes, such as the restriping of streets and curbs, and a new shopping cart ordinance slated to go into effect on November 1st, as signs that the city is making strides in combating blight.

“We’re trying to be very responsive to things that are offensive in our community, we’re making every effort to do that,” he told the audience at Tuesday’s meeting.

Bernal then addressed the homelessness problem in Antioch. In the last year, the city has seen a 33% increase in its homeless population, from 122 to 164. That increase paces East County’s 33% raise, while West County actually saw a 45% decrease.

The closure of the Don Brown Center earlier this year, which had provided services and resources for many of the East Bay’s homeless, and of Shelter Inc.’s transitional housing on Delta Fair Boulevard, created problems, Bernal said.

The city currently has budgeted $50,000 for the funding of homeless services, and the Antioch Shelter Project, which aims to replace the closed Don Brown Center, is in the process of finding a new location.

But Bernal emphasized the importance of the community in fighting the city’s homelessness problem, noting that faith-based institutions and individual citizens continue to do their part.

“Everybody needs to get involved,” he said. “We all need to try to work together.”

Delta Pines Apartments

Council also oversaw a public hearing on the proposed financing of the Delta Pines Apartments, on Sycamore Drive.

Delta Pines was constructed in the 1970’s and consists of 186 units on 7 acres, and is part of Antioch’s affordable housing stock. The Council voted 5-0 to approve a $35 million bond issued by the California Statewide Communities Development Authority for real estate investment firm Levy Affiliated to finance the complex.

The proposed financing will include its purchase and renovation by Levy Affiliated, which aims to provide energy upgrades, handicap accessibility, and new kitchens, energy-efficient appliances, and floors to the units.

No representatives of Levy Affiliated spoke on behalf of the project during the hearing, and no opponents spoke against it.

“I’m grateful that this is happening,” said Councilmember Monica Wilson, “That we have organizations coming in to rehab some of our older buildings, to make them handicap accessible, and for our low income and affordable housing. So hopefully we see some more of these come up.”

Mayor Pro Tem Lori Ogorchock agreed, citing recent rent increases.

“I’m just happy that they’re doing them, and that they’re making them ADA compliant,” she said. “We have several people with disabilities that were forced out of their rentals because their rents were increasing. So we need more of these.”

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Free General Store Mobile Boutique for those in need to be held in Antioch, Saturday, Oct. 15

Thursday, October 13th, 2016

wpe-church-of-god-holy-boutique-10-15-16

White Pony Express’ (WPE) Free General Store is having a “Mobile Boutique” in Antioch on Saturday, October 15th. The Free General Store (FGS) is one of two primary programs through which WPE meets its mission of helping to end hunger and poverty in Contra Costa County by delivering the abundance all around us to those in need.

FGS partners with donors by picking up their surplus new and like-new goods and delivering them to underserved neighbors, either through community groups that serve them or directly at innovative and joyful events called “Mobile Boutiques.”

WPE serves 60,000 people a year, according to the counts of our recipient partners, and has given away over 250,000 items of clothing and 75,000 toys and games— all free of charge.

View a video of how the Mobile Boutiques operate by clicking here.

The hours of the White Pony Express’ Free General Store will be from 10 am – 12:45 pm, which is the time for people to select their clothing, shoes, toys, games, and children’s books – all free of charge. At 1:30 pm, the Mobile Grocery will open, for people to obtain fresh and quality food, again, all free of charge.

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Antioch Council discusses housing for homeless, votes to bring in ARF to help Animal Shelter

Friday, October 7th, 2016

arf-logoBy Nick Goodrich

During its meeting on Tuesday, September 27th, the Antioch City Council heard a report from Assemblyman Jim Frazier, discussed housing for the city’s homeless, and  voted to bring in Tony La Russa’s Animal Rescue Foundation (ARF) to provide help for its struggling animal shelter.

Frazier’s Report

To open the meeting, Council hosted Assemblyman Jim Frazier, who provided an update on his recent legislative activities in the California State Assembly and sought support for his transportation funding proposal.

Frazier was pleased to note the completion of the Highway 4 corridor widening project, which he has worked for since his time on Transplan, the East County division of the Contra Costa Transportation Authority.

The project, which amounted to $1.3 billion through the county’s half-cent sales tax measure and state funds, created over 12,000 jobs and employed more than 40 local businesses.

“We have infrastructure in poor shape. It’s horrible, it’s crumbling,” he said. As the chairman of the Transportation Committee in California, Frazier said he has made it his mission to create and support various transportation projects in the state.

He reported that he has been working with his colleagues, local communities, and industry experts to develop an all-inclusive plan that would help make major improvements to California’s transportation and infrastructure.

“By strengthening trade corridors and improving the movement of goods, this proposal keeps businesses in California,” he told the Council.

In addition, Frazier’s plan calls for an additional $7.4 billion annually to be designated for transportation in the state. It includes increases to the tax on gas and diesel, as well as to the vehicle license registration fee.

He called on Antioch residents and citizens throughout California to show their enthusiasm for his plan by writing letters of support to their local newspapers and representatives.

“Let’s make transportation funding a priority this year,” he said.

Public Hearing: Priorities for Housing and Homeless

Council also oversaw a public hearing on priorities for Antioch’s homeless population. The city’s plan, which began with a study session in August of this year, includes providing a grant program for mobile home owners and seeking County funds to support homeless outreach.

Outreach to Antioch’s homeless will soon see an increase, as at least one County-funded outreach team will begin operating mostly in the East Bay—namely, Pittsburg, Antioch, etc. All homeless outreach in Contra Costa will be funded by the County, but Antioch has still managed to allocate $38,000 for the fiscal year in order to resolve the issue of homelessness in the city.

The Council is expected to allocate extra money toward increased outreach as needed—for example, if a second outreach team is deemed necessary, the city will contribute to the County’s funding to help make that happen. Or, an outreach team that operates in the evening will be given the funding to allow it to operate for more hours during the week.

An East County care center, designed to replace the resource center that used to work with the Don Brown shelter on 4th Street, was tentatively approved for County funding to the tune of over $660,000.

East County is currently the only County location that does not have a multi-resource center. A suitable location is still in the works, however, and funding for the center won’t be available for the next 8-10 months.

Mayor Pro Tem Lori Ogorchock made sure to clarify that, if the city needs to, it can always designate more than its current $38,000 to help out.

“I just want to make sure our hands aren’t tied,” she said.

Animal Rescue Foundation Steps In

The Council then discussed a Memorandum of Understanding for a partnership with Tony La Russa’s Animal Rescue Foundation (ARF).

ARF has agreed to provide the Antioch Animal Shelter with services and expertise in key areas for a one-year period, at no cost to the City. The partnership comes on the heels of months of complaints about the state of Antioch’s Animal Shelter, by many residents.

During the Council’s last meeting, Antioch Police Chief Allan Cantando presented a list of options for the city to consider to begin addressing some of the issues the shelter faces, such as funding shortages and a lack of trained professionals. Seeking outside help was among them.

Several residents from the surrounding area stated their satisfaction with the ARF partnership, including Louise McGuire, a resident of Concord, where ARF has run a successful shelter for years.

“I applaud the Memorandum of Understanding,” McGuire told the Council. “I hope that this resolution will benefit the lives of the animals in the shelter, and also the people the people that care for them.”

Karen Kopps, President of HARP, the Homeless Animals Response Program, was happy with the news.

“I’m also delighted that this update is being done now, and not in early 2017,” she stated. “So, thank you.”

An initial meeting and walk through of the shelter will be conducted with ARF soon, the council reported. That will allow ARF to determine the number of staff and number of hours they will provide.

Harper was happy to give the community a concrete course of action after continued complaints about the shelter.

“TherResolution is not yet a detailed plan,” he said. “But it looks like we’re attempting to take steps move forward. We’re listening. We still have a responsibility to make improvements…Now it’s time for us to start making those improvements.”

The resolution to approve the understanding with ARF was approved by Council in a unanimous 5-0 vote.

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