On Tuesday, the Antioch City Council ran through a series of recommendations brought forward by the Homeless Encampment Ad-Hoc Committee.
Antioch City Manager Ron Bernal highlighted the task force was tasked with studying the growing homeless crisis in Antioch and work on solutions to alleviate homeless issues until the completion of the Contra Costa County Care Center.
He highlighted how the committee focused on three principals which were quality of life issues such as human waste, needles, and threat to overall quality of life in the city of Antioch and the economic success of the city. The second was the accomplish immediate short-term shelter needs during winter months during the cold weather. The third principal was long-term transitional and permanent housing.
“This is not an all inclusive list of things, but something we wanted to bring back to you until the Unhoused Resident Coordinator position is filled, that individual would bring back more specific information.” said Bernal.
Bernal recommended the council hold off on establishing transitional and long-term housing until the unhoused resident coordinator so they could look at models around the country and come back with information for the council to look at and what zoning changes might be needed.
During public comments, Nichole Gardner, a homeless advocate, stated tonight and here on out will impact their 2020 election.
“I wanted to make the five of you a promise each and every single one of you that if you fail to face homelessness and confront this crisis head on seeing that out of 112,000 people in our city, only the five of you have a say on what we can and cannot do to help our brothers and sisters, we advocates, we will do whatever we can do in our power to make sure you will not be in that seat. In 2021, our homeless community will have a voice,” said Gardner. “You will be accountable for your actions. They need housing, they need shelter, they need food, water, and out of the cold. Last year, I cried all throughout the cold and rainy season, feeling hopeless.”
After several other speakers, the item came back before the council who ran through the items one-by-one in a laundry list format to provide their opinions on each option.
Councilmember Lamar Thorpe thanked those who participated in the ad-hoc committee and these were not all their ideas, but rather ideas that were brought to them.
“They were your ideas, so we are carrying out what the residents of Antioch, or at least what we are talking about today is carrying out with residents of Antioch have asked us to look into and consider,” said Thorpe. “I want to thank those who have participated in the process and have held us accountable.”
Thorpe said he was for most of the suggestions and suggested staff look into facilities the city already has that are not being used 2/3 of the year where they have showers.
“I think we need to utilize also the assets that we have in place that we have in front of us,” said Thorpe. “We don’t need to reinvent the wheel somewhere else. We have some of those assets here right now.”
Councilwoman Monica Wilson echoed Thorpe’s comments stating they should utilize assets that are not being used at certain times of the year and thanked residents for holding them accountable.
Below is the Laundry List of items (from staff report) – followed by council comments from Tuesday — note, this is a cliff note version based on the format provided.
Quality of Life Issues:
Dumpster and Sharps Container Services
To date, Republic Services has provided dumpsters at the Fulton Shipyard area while the City is looking to bring a Sharps Container Service. The city says the cost of the dumpster has been covered by Republic Services to date, however, they can begin working to expand the dumpster access outside of the downtown area to other parts of the city. The initial cost of providing a sharps containers program is $2,500 with additional cost for maintenance and collection.
- Thorpe stated he was all for this
- Mayor Pro Tem Joy Motts suggested they expand this into the Sycamore area.
- Mayor Sean Wright – its where staff feels the need is.
- Councilwoman Lori Ogorchock suggested those that see this within the city, instead of dumping on the side of the road, they will begin dumping in dumpsters. Called it two-fold.
Currently, the city is providing portable toilets at two locations in northern Antioch (downtown). The cost is $400 per unit each month. City staff is recommending to expand this program at an effort of $5,000 per year.
- Thorpe stated he was for this.
- Motts for it and suggested it be expanded to several other places around the city including the post office off Tregallas, listen to the business community.
- Ogorchock asked this go back to staff and code enforcement to decide.
Portable Shower Units
The city says Shower House Ministries has been providing this service to Antioch homeless and Antioch is looking to provide additional resources such as water and electricity which could expand the to increase the number of shower units to offset the cost of the services. The cost would be $10,000 per year.
- Ogorchock asked this be expanded by others within the Continuum of Care
- Motts wanted staff to look at Thorpe’s ideas of using existing city facilities.
The city is looking at supporting access to laundry services by supporting a mobile laundry unit or pursuing vouchers for existing coin-operated laundromats in the City of Antioch. The city could also lease or purchase a combination of a shower and laundry portable trailer that could be transported to different locations in the community. The city says the cost to pursue development of a laundry service program through a laundry voucher program, mobile laundry services or similar effort is at a cost of $20,000 per year. To purchase a shower and laundry portable trailer is at a cost of $100,000.
- Ogorchock preferred the voucher program
- Thorpe preferred the voucher program until they get the Unhoused Resident Coordinator on board to look at other options
- Motts was for the voucher program
Immediate Short-Term Shelter
Work with local hotels and motels to purchase vouchers that would allow CORE Team to refer vulnerable homeless individuals to a motel for temporary emergency lodging—specifically cold nights and during rainstorms. Estimated cost $10,000 in vouchers.
- Wright stated there are a lot of mothers and children out there and as there and as he has tried to help individuals in need, there was no where for them to go. He wanted to make sure who they were helping was Antioch residents and not first come, first service.
- Staff said that when you are homeless, if you are in Antioch, you are an Antioch resident. Staff explained its fluid since homeless move between cities. Wright responded that they look into the Santa Ana model.
- Ogorchock suggested staff utilize Shelter, Inc.
- Staff said they would look at utilizing service providers to run this program.
- LaVonna Martin, Director at Health, Housing, and Homeless Services at Contra Costa Health, explained when running a voucher program, its typically a government entity. Martin says the challenges is they cannot stay longer than 28-days which is why vouchers are usually 7-days or less. Martin highlighted how City of Martinez and Pittsburg provide vouchers on a case-by-case basis with discretionary funding and its not a designated program.
- Motts said she would like to make sure a mother and her children had somewhere to go on a cold night. She called the $10k is something they should look at now and maybe expand or look into something else when an unhoused resident coordinator is hired.
- Ogorchock stated her concern was if they start doing this outside Continuum of Care, there is no follow up services.
- Martin later explained $10k goes very quickly when you talk about hotel and motel vouchers when a program is charging HSD $85 per night.
- Ogorchock said she was for these services, as long as it did not impact or lose the Continuum of Care portion of this. Martin replied you can “absolutely count” on the service being there. Just acknowledge that plans cannot be put in place as quickly as they need to by the time the 28-days are up.
- Staff clarified the discussion saying the plan for this was for “emergency housing” not provide “transitional housing”.
Staff highlights through the County Librarian and H3, the city could fund a warming center at the Antioch Library during cold or rainy winter days or nights. The program would require staff and served individuals would need to be pre-screened for safety reasons. The cost is $250,000 to serve 15-20 persons November through June. Staff could also look at a “Winter Nights” program where local churches could rotate offering their facilities for homeless.
- Wright asked if this was a partnership with the county or finding a service provider to provide this. Last year, Antioch approved the funding from the county, this year, the funding is coming from City of Antioch.
- Motts said at $250k, she would rather see this money go towards a “winter nights” program and work with the local churches and faith based organizations. She suggested they could utilize current city facilities as an option.
- Wright replied that the issue is whether it’s a library or city building, it is still the provider and the cost would be the same.
- Martin said the $250k is really just the start-up cost to get the tents, cots, and everything set up with staffing. The cost is different when you work with volunteers.
- Wright said he was in agreement with Motts on the Winter Nights Program because of his concern with costs and would like to work with faith based communities.
- Staff said they will work on the Winter Nights program and if they hit a dead-end they will circle back to the council.
- Thorpe added that they have facilities they never use such as the Nick Rodriguez building which sits empty overnight. The water park is empty two-thirds out of the year. He said he would rather use city facilities than pay others rent.
- Martin clarified that the library has no intention of charging rent just by the way, but it really is just a matter of staffing ratios and ensuring that you have two people on at all times and sort of what that looks like. And then abiding by, of course, mandatory labor laws where you can’t have people working over eight hours.
- Thorpe clarified that this option still allows people to receive services from the Continuum of Care and people are mistaking that fact. What they do with this will still allow people to have services from the county.
- Wright confirmed with the council they will look into the Winter Nights Program and then look into the cost with the faith based community to potentially use some local facilities
Safe Parking Lots
This program would be for individuals living in their cars or RVs who are considered homeless. Modeling this after the City of Oakland, Antioch could choose to require those participating to move their vehicles each day to prevent quasi-permanent situation. This could cost the city $35,000 for four months and serve 50-75 persons running through the winter and end of the school year.
- Forest Ebbs said there were several parking lots downtown but they needed to come up with program guidelines of how they want to operate this program. He said he could think of three or four off his head but would need to work with the public works director and city manager.
- Mottts called this program “critical” saying they all know how many people are living in their vehicles, RV and are parked on the streets. She called it important and needed to get this started as soon as possible.
- The rest of the council agreed.
The council, based on city staff recommendation, is holding off on discussing long-term transitional and permanent housing until an unhouse resident coordinator is hired.
Thorpe reminded the public that this is not going to solve the homeless encampment problem so he hopes the community did not anticipate this will take people off the streets, that will not occur until they begin working on the longer-term solutions which is the tougher challenge.
City Manager Ron Bernal stated that at the next city council meeting, they will be coming back with a budget amendment to ensure they have funding available to implement services and programs directed by council Tuesday night—he would provide a budget amendment for the cumulative total.
Antioch City Council Meeting – Agenda