During Tuesday night’s Brentwood City Council meeting, the council decided against putting forward a Resolution of Declaring a Shelter Crisis in Contra Costa County and instead opted to offer a Letter of Support.
This was done at the request of Councilmember Karen Rarey who explained to the council Brentwood did not have a shelter crisis and only had 4-people who were homeless according to the 2017 Point in Time Survey.
(Note – Rarey was later corrected on her data by County Staff and Senator Glazer’s office who stated the number was 35 based on the 2018 study — the county does it every year while the state requires counties to do it every 2-years)
The purpose of approving a Resolution is because of Senate Bill-850 and the 2018-19 Budget Act that has recognized the urgent and immediate need for funding at the local level to combat homelessness and have provided funding to local governments under the Homeless Emergency Aid Program (HEAP).
With no fiscal impact on each city who passes the resolution, the County Board of Supervisors are seeking to have all 19-cities approve the resolution to be unified in the stance to fight homelessness
HEAP grant funding is available to Continuums of Care (CoC) or large cities with a population of over 330,000. Since there are no cities in the County that meet the population requirement, the County is eligible to receive $7,196,770. The proposed allocation are as follows:
- West County – $1.36m (21% of the County’s unsheltered population)
- Central County – $2.2m (34% of the County’s unsheltered population)
- East County – $2.9m (45% of the County’s unsheltered population).
Some of the uses of HEAP funding could be used for:
- Outreach: boots on the ground
- Treatment – services such as mental health
- Shelter – supportive housing, safe shelter
- Homeless prevention – counseling, one-time rental assistance
- Resources – connect homeless individuals to healthcare, training
The number of homeless increased by 627 individuals compared to the 2017 count. The City of Antioch had the most homeless in the County with 350 followed by Richmond (270) and Concord (252). In East Contra Costa, Pittsburg had 110 homeless followed by Bay Point (61), Oakley (49), Brentwood (35), Bethel Island (7) and Discovery Day (1).
Rarey asked that this come before the council because the 2017 point in time count was at 4-people which is what they are basing the funding on the HEAP funding and lists that as a Shelter Crisis
“It just doesn’t seem right because we are not going to be applying for those funds. The city of Antioch is looking at applying for them and possibly building a shelter in their area and that is was why I suggested we send off the Letter of Support to the Continuum of Care and to any other of the local jurisdictions who are requesting that ask for grant,” explained Rarey.
Mayor Bob Taylor asked Rarey about other cities who have supported and how this letter works.
Rarey explained that, “within the county, the money comes to the county Continuum of Care and there is $7 million of funding that is coming in. Of that $7 million, it is estimated that 45% of that is coming to East County,” said Rarey who noted that no other cities are applying for projects other than Antioch. “I am suspecting that Antioch would be the only Letter of Support we would be when they submit for their grant money.”
Vice Mayor Joel Bryant stated there are certain areas in East County that could benefit from the funding and he was in “absolute support” of a Letter of Support
Councilwoman Claudette Staton replied she didn’t understand what a Letter of Support was and wanted staff to provide clarification. Rarey explained that if the city did not create a resolution, they were not eligible for the funds but they could write a letter of support.
“So if we did a resolution, we would be saying we have a shelter crisis of 4 homeless people,” said Rarey.
Staton confirmed with Rarey that a letter of support would then allow other cities to have additional funds. Rarey said only the city who does a resolution and applies for the funds.
“The Director of Health, Human and Homeless Services had said that no other city was applying for those, that they would be taking that money and distributing them out to non-profits,” said Rarey. “There is HUD funding available for servicing our local constituents who may become homeless so there is rental assistance that we can receive above and beyond by not doing the resolution.”
Councilmember Balwinder “Bailey” Grewal stated based on what he was hearing, they should send a letter of support to help anyone in East County so they could send them support and help them.
Lavonna Martin, MPH, MPA Director, Health, Housing and Homeless Services, spoke during public comments asked the council to consider approving a resolution and going beyond the Letter of Support.
“The Letter of Support is great, and I am sure Antioch and other communities would appreciate the Letter of Support, but the fact of the matter is that Letter of Support is inadmissible with the application that we need to submit to the state,” stated Martin. “The requirement to receive the $7.19 million from the state is to have cities collaborate and declare shelter crisis along with the county to acknowledge that together we are in this, that the 696 beds that we have in our community are absolutely full.”
Martin also provided accurate data from the Point in Time County in January of 2018 of 1,300 individuals living outside with 35 people being in Brentwood—not 4 as Rarey stated to her council.
“We only have the ability to meet 30% of the of the need right now in our community. By my definition that is a crisis,” said Martin. “Whether it is 4 individuals in 2017 or 35 just a few months ago, the crisis is getting worse and we have more people on the street so really declaring the shelter crisis you would be joining the other cities—Antioch, Pittsburg, Walnut Creek, Pleasant Hill and others.”
She also explained how Lafayette, Hercules, Concord, and the Board of Supervisors have it coming up on their upcoming agendas.
“I would really encourage you to really join the rest of the community in solidarity in acknowledging the fact that we do not have enough beds in our community right now to date to support the people who need them and please submit a crisis declaration so we can include that in our application so we can show the state that as a county with 19 cities we can come together and address the situation,” said Martin.
George Escutia of Senator Steve Glazer’s Office also spoke during public comments reading a letter from Senator Glazer.
Homelessness is a countywide problem. No jurisdiction – even Brentwood – is immune from having residents who are experiencing difficult economic circumstances or serious health problems that impact their care and housing.
All of us need to do everything possible to help our neighbors in need.
That is why the State Legislature and the Governor approved millions of additional funds to help local agencies provide compassionate care through homeless services and shelters this year.
To access these additional funds, Brentwood should consider joining with their sister cities in Contra Costa County in declaring a shelter crisis. This procedural step ensures that your homeless residents can receive enhanced services and rental assistance.
A letter of support is an encouraging step. However, under state law, it will not allow enhanced county and state help to our Brentwood friends and neighbors who are facing difficulties.
If there are ancillary concerns about the impact of the required resolution, I am happy to work with you to provide further clarification.
Thank you for your commitment to combatting homelessness and for joining other cities in the region in this important effort to provide greater help for those in need.
Senator Steve Glazer
Taylor said he was in support of doing the Letter of Support.
Rarey stated she spoke with the State of California agency that oversees all this funding where it was said that even if all agencies don’t declare a crisis that the county and the continuum of care would still receive 100% of the funding.
“By us not providing a resolution it will not restrict them from that funding,” stated Rarey.
Bryant reiterated his support for the letter.
Staton stated the crisis she sees in the Bay Area is enormous and said they should put out a Letter of Support to whatever city needed one.
“No one wants to see anyone sleeping in the street or sidewalk or asking for help or pushing a cart so whatever we can do to help, lets do that,” said Staton.
The council, through a consensus and not a vote, directed state to draft a letter of support in Contra Costa County who are pursuing funding through the 2018 Homeless Emergency Aid Program (HEAP).
On Wednesday, when asked to clarify the city’s stance against the proposed Resolution, Brentwood City Manager Gus Vina stated he didn’t see 35 people as a crisis and called the Resolution “anti-business” and did not see why Brentwood should declare it a crisis.
“Why dilute the effort if Antioch is going to receive millions of dollars to get people off the streets, we will tell our 35 homeless that here is your resource,” said Vina. “We are talking about transient people to begin with. On Monday, they begin in Brentwood, by Wednesday they are in Antioch and Sunday back in Pittsburg.”
Vina added that a Letter of Support acknowledges the county has a problem in certain areas and stated he was not trying to be insensitive to homeless, but they have their own affordable housing program to assist the homeless and people who could be losing their homes.
Pittsburg Approves Resolution Declaring Shelter Crisis
On Monday, the Pittsburg City Council unanimously approved a resolution declaring a shelter crisis after the Point in Time Count in January showed there were 110 people counted as homeless in the City of Pittsburg.
It was also stated during the meeting by staff that 17% of LMC students are considered homeless and because of the numbers, its why staff was recommending the city make a declaration that there was a shelter crisis.
Councilmember Jelani Killings stated he attended the training and realizes they need the funds out here in East Contra Costa County because this issue is ongoing and offers some relief in the effort, but his concern was the leeriness of the state legislator—tied to the money, they have to make the declaration.
Killings had his reservations but ultimately saw the need and supported the Resolution.
Meanwhile, councilmember Merl Craft explained this was one-time funding and no additional funds passed these funds but that they need to do something.
Craft noted that at a recent stakeholder meeting, the consensus was most people stated they did not want the funds used for a one-time thing, but 24-hour shelter that was ongoing. Not only a shelter, but a resource center to assist people.
“If we have a chance to help at any cost, whether its one time or whatever, maybe it will just give us that buffer that we need to do better and be able to say we have done this and is it working and then say do we need to go after additional funds,” said Craft. “We cannot not do anything, we just can’t keep doing it that way.”
Lavonna Martin also spoke at the meeting stating when she asked the state director why the cities needed to declare this Shelter Crisis and not just the county, the Director stated it was to ensure that the cities and county were in alignment in trying to address the problem—there are no ramifications in adopting these. By not declaring a shelter declaration, she said that funds can’t come into a city for shelter assistance—any individual who lost their home, they could not come back into the community with these dollars. You also can’t use these funds for capital improvements.
Martin also highlighted that since Pittsburg had a warming center, funding could be used from this budget to upgrade its capital improvements of the center.
Pittsburg voted on Monday 5-0 to approve the Resolution declaring a shelter crisis.