On Tuesday night, the Antioch City Council received an update from the Homeless Encampment Ad-Hoc Committee which offered commendations for the council to consider.
The recommendations presented by committee members Mayor Pro Tem Joy Motts and Councilmember Lamar Thorpe provided both immediate recommendations and more long-term solutions.
Both Motts and Thorpe used the term “unhoused residents” vs using the term “homeless”.
Motts highlights some of the challenges included human waste, needles, trash, debris and some of the immediate recommended remedies were portable restrooms, mobile showers, laundry facility, mobile or lease to rent options, sharps disposals and dumpsters for trash.
“A priority is that we identify locations for a temporary shelter,” said Motts. “
The immediate recommendations included:
- Safe Parking Lot
- RV/Trailer parking locations (public/private)
- Conestoga Hut/Tuff Shed Cabins
- Master leasing agreements with hotel/motel rooms
- Rent fairground trailer park when not in use
- Identify locations
Thorpe highlighted these were temporary solutions but suggested they needed permanent transitional housing.
“We need to build and develop housing villages. We can refurbish shipping containers or we can do ready build tiny homes. But the fact of matter is we just have to do something,” said Thorpe.
Motts piggybacked off that saying that agencies are spending millions of dollars and they are not helping nor are they accomplishing anything because it is simply moving people around with the situation getting worse.
One of the recommendations was also to look into hiring a “Unhoused Resident Coordinator” who would build a network/collaborative of public/private entities to help service families and individuals. Coordinate a plan/response to public health concerns and work with city staff as needed. Develop a plan for temporary shelter and safety and work on a delivery for a successful transitional/permanent housing program.
Prior to getting into the recommendations, Motts and Thorpe provided an overview their 4-committee meetings with different groups where they sought to gain public testimony.
Councilman Lamar Thorpe highlighted their findings over their 4-meetings including noting that there isn’t a comprehensive coordination for Antioch to address the issue while saying the proposed care center will not solve the homeless issue.
“There are some public health challenges that I think we need to address and not as a joke. These are serious issues,” said Thorpe. He alter highlighted how this didn’t just happen, but was a “confluence of things” in federal policy that has not funded this issue.
Thorpe challenged the community to visit the County Shelter and visit with local homeless while being critical of people who have opinions online but fail to participate.
“One of the things that really blew me away was for those who have a lot to say and have the loudest voices, we created this very transparent committee and none of them showed up,” explained Thorpe. “None of those loud on Facebook showed up. And I expected to see them there, but they didn’t show up. This is more to the big heart that our community has to addressing challenges than to listening to clowns on social media.”
Motts explained they invited the business community to provide feedback which highlighted trash issues, broken sprinklers and breaking junction boxes which created all types of expenses for buildings that had homeless encampment around them.
Motts also highlighted how businesses have had to shut down bathrooms –specifically Corteva and the Somersville Towne Center Mall.
Thorpe added how speaking to businesses was a learning opportunity for him regarding an incident at G Street Mercantile after an incident occurred and the police were called.
“He called the police and the police came and the police officer says, Oh, you know, we know so and so, not a big deal. He’s not a threat to anybody. And I would have thought the same thing. And Michael says, well, he may not be a threat to that, but he’s a threat to my livelihood because now this person isn’t coming back and, and I gotta eat,” explained Thorpe. “You get, we re you got to look at all this from, from many different frames to really understand how the impact that this is having… So we take for granted little things like that where for us it may, oh well he’s not a threat to me or anybody, but he’s a threat to this person’s livelihood. So that was, that was important to kind of learn and then to learn that the extent in damage that property managers have to go through.”
The Task Force set out to seek testimony from regional, county and city agencies, community-based organizations, homeless advocates and volunteers to build the committee’s knowledge base around the impacts of “encampments” on local communities. They also sought testimony of how to better align city services to alleviate homeless encampments on public and private property. They also wanted to see how homeless encampments were impacting business and residents.
Meanwhile, Councilwoman Monica Wilson stated that the community needed to get used to saying the term “unhoused residents” versus “homeless”.
It was also reported that Contra Costa County Fire Protection said 390 fires in the county were from homeless.
The committee was established after preliminary data released from the Contra Costa Health Services which showed a 3% increase in homeless, however, over a 2-year count, there was a 43% increase. The data showed that 668 persons had shelter, while 1,627 persons went without shelters, including 3% being families and 97% single adults. A breakdown of where the homeless were located in the county is expected in June.
Meanwhile, on May 22, Governor Gavin Newsom announced a Statewide Task Force. The Homeless and Supportive Housing Advisory Task Force will meet a number of times throughout the year in cities and counties around the state to observe best practices firsthand and receive input from governments and constituents statewide to propose solutions to address the homelessness epidemic.
Along with his Task Force, Newsom announced a May budget revision which included $1 billion to fight California’s homelessness crisis