Home Antioch Antioch City Council Punts Vote on Homeless Motel Plan

Antioch City Council Punts Vote on Homeless Motel Plan

by ECT

On Tuesday, the Antioch City Council postponed its vote until Friday to move forward with a proposal to seek funding through the State of California Homekey Program for housing opportunities for homeless at the Executive Inn on E 18th Street in the City of Antioch.

Instead, the council is seeking a more details presentation on other possible project opportunities and why staff selected the Executive Inn as the only site to be able to compete for funding given the aggressive timelines by the state.

The council called for a special meeting Friday to receive the presentation.

According to the agenda, if approved and awarded funding, the city would pledge a 5-year commitment of $12.3 million dollars in local funding which would also deplete the reserves and budget stabilization fund in 2027.

At the City Council meeting on April 12, 2022, $5.7M in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds were allocated for a two-year Non-Congregate Bridge Housing pilot initiative. Reducing the initial lease term would enable the City to apply these funds to the Homekey interim housing model.

After a staff presentation and public comments, Antioch Mayor Lamar Thorpe highlighted two-years of effort to provide context with depth and scope noting that there are no services in East contra Costa County for people experiencing homelessness—with the exception of a small homeless shelter, formally the Don Brown Shelter, an 8-bed shelter.

“The fact of the matter is most of the people living unhoused in our community are our neighbors,” stated Thorpe. “They are people who grew up here or are people who are hear because they have a connection to who lives here, a family or friend.”

Thorpe stated five-years ago they sold a piece of property on Delta Fair for $1 dollar to Contra Costa County and still waiting for the CARE Center.

“I became very frustrated because it became my issue,” stated Thorpe who said they spend millions chasing them from location to location while stating people who complain don’t account for time spent by Antioch Police or Antioch Public Works. “But we are wasting your money chasing people from corner to corner.”

He added that the non-profit sector does not exist in Eastern Contra Costa County and are not many non-profits providing services out here but they created an unhoused resident coordinator for City of Antioch.

“We decided we would make small investments initially,” said Thorpe. “Then we set some money aside, set over $100k aside to provide limited services like warming center, place for people to get vouchers. We couldn’t get it off the ground because we had no capacity to do these things. We literally put toilets in public spaces, so they had a dignified way to use the restroom.”

He continued by explaining they utilized Focus Strategies.

“This council unlike any city in this region or any city in this county or probably the bay area throughout the state of California, except the large cities, has taken proactive steps to deal with homelessness. No other city does that because they will say, like I used to say, go to the county they will solve all their problems” stated Thorpe. “Two years we have been on this journey to try to provide better services for our community. The hotel off of 18th Street, please understand the goal here isn’t to throw people into a hotel and then say have a nice day, we are literally talking abut providing services. Support people on their journey to permanent housing. This is bridge housing, temporary stability.”

Thorpe called it critically important for the public to have the background and didn’t want people giving out disinformation about the decision-making being made by the council.

“People have put in a lot of work, a lot of time to ensure they make the best decision up here,” said Thorpe who said they need smart decision making to move people out of homelessness.

Mayor Pro Tem Mike Barbanica stated he supported getting people off the street but did not support the proposed location.

“We are talking $2.46 million a year or $80,000 per room per year. We are talking 30-rooms,” stated Barbanica. “We have other opportunities and we were very successful in what we developed at Delta Landing.”

He continued by explaining the city of Pittsburg has had the Pittsburg Police Department often having to place two officers in the Walmart Parking lot due to the increase in issues they have had.

“We can’t fool ourselves into thinking this residential neighborhood area or school down the street will not be impacted. It will be impacted by this,” stated Barbanica who urged them to look at other opportunities. “This is the wrong location.”

Councilmember Tamisha Torres-Walker said having the Executive Inn providing housing for the homeless will make the area around E 18th Street and Cavallo any less safe than it already is.

“I’ve been talking about problems of safety in that neighborhood since I came to the council,” stated Torres-Walker explaining that they brought a charter school on Cavallo where children cross the street with little traffic safety while parents walk them back and forth to school. They put a school where shootings are frequent and know drugs are being dealt on the corner. “If it was good enough for us to put a school there with children, then we can house people who are living on the street there too.”

Torres-Walker said they should move forward with the Executive Inn and should not focus just on making the site safe, focus on making the entire neighborhood and area safe.

She also stated there has not been a fair assessment from Focus Strategies on other sites within the city and wanted to see other partners coming in – such as Dignity Moves, the Home First Project (San Jose).

“I do agree this one site is not the end all be all, we have time,” said Torres-Walker noting the October timeline for the application. “I feel like if we act aggressively and with urgency to look at other potential sites with other people at the table and with a new set of eyes that I do not feel is a biased view then we can get an application in on time that would include the Executive Inn.”

Councilmember Lori Ogorchock said they should do a presentation with Dignity Moves with Home Key so they could share opportunities on other possible properties along with a feasibility study.

“$12.3 million is conservative,” said Ogorchock. “When you look at the budget and transferring in from the budget stabilization fund, 2025-2026 there is no more money in the budget stabilization funds so our reserves will be depleted while the $12.3 million does not include services and people need those social services.”

She said Antioch also does not have the staff to manage this lease at the Executive Inn and was not in favor of the site and wanted to look at other opportunities.

Mayor Thorpe then wanted to issue clarifications so people would not be misinformed saying the $12.3 million is broken down over 5-years and does include wrap-around services.

“Every budget assumption we get puts us in the red,” said Thorpe. “I’ve been here going into the red and 10-years later we are not bankrupt because these numbers do not make all the assumptions.”

He cited the sales tax typically does better than anticipated so they have more revenue, they do not factor in cannabis and suggested looking at the budget as a fixed number is “inaccurate” because they are assumptions and not reality.

Councilmember Monica Wilson stated they were in a position where they needed to do something while looking at other opportunities.

“I don’t want us to keep going this is not a good site because fill in the blank and then a year down the road we find another site and this is not a good site because of blank,” said Wilson. “Nobody is going to be 100% happy with the location we picked out.”

She cited this placed out with the homeless trailers and urged them to move forward so they did not leave potential money on the table in the second round of funding and apply also for third round of funding while also looking at other opportunities.

“I am for voting for this tonight to at least get the ball rolling instead of us kicking the can down the road,” said Wilson. “I feel like we constantly kick the can down the road because somebody somewhere, some group, some blogger, some podcast is upset because of a certain location or just have their feathers in a ruffle.”

Thorpe again clarified they would not be applying for “round 2” of funding due May 2, but for “round 3” due in October.

Assistant City Manager Rosann Bayon Moore explained they could provide a presentation on why the Executive Inn was the only site to be able to compete for funding given the aggressive timelines by the state—within 8-months, they would have to bring units online.

“I would have appreciated to see that before this and that didn’t happen,” stated Torres-Walker. “It would have been a lot more of a transparent process and made it more clear to all of us which it didn’t happen and I think we all asked. We asked for a presentation to see what was possible and that didn’t happen.”

Torres-Walker said she wanted to hear from Dignity moves and from Home First for a more balanced presentation so she could not support the item tonight. She suggested a lot was missing from the report.

Thorpe interjected stating needed to “postpone this” and called for a special meeting for Friday.

“This has to move, we have to move and cannot kick this down the road. The last thing we need to do is waste valuable time and not doing anything because we cannot meet a specific timeline,” said Thorpe.  “We can come back on Friday.”

Torres-Walker then made the motion to postpone the item.

Thorpe then commented on the recent voting records.

“Most, I would have to say 95% of the issues we brought forward on unhoused residents or homelessness have been 3-2 votes. So I hear this stuff about today is this reason, today is that reason but most of the votes have been 3-2 votes,” said Thorpe. “It’s their values and what they stand for and I am sick and tired of people coming up with excuses for why we cant help the homeless when its been a consistent record of rejecting every single idea.”

The item was postponed until Friday in a 4-1 vote with Barbanica dissenting.


Editors Notes

During the February 2021 City Council Meeting, the City Council agreed to move forward with an RFP for Bridge Housing for Homeless. At that meeting, a report was provided by Jazmin Ridley, unhoused resident coordinator presented the item which outlined a timeline which include:

  • October 2018 – Shelter Crisis declared pursuant to CA SB 850
  • March 2019 – Council Hosted Homeless Encampment Taskforce Panel
  • April 2019 – Homeless Encampment Ad-hoc Committee Formed
  • August 2019 – City Council recommends Unhoused Resident Coordinator Position
  • September 2019 – Unhoused Resident coordinator Position Classification Created
  • February 2020 – Focus Strategies began work as Unhoused Resident Coordinator Consultant
  • April 2020 – Transitional Housing Ad-hoc Committee formed
  • May 2020 – Project Roomkey Program at Motel 6 opened
  • May 2020 – RV Housing Opportunity Program (RP Released/no contract awarded)
  • October 2020 – Motel Occupancy Agreement Program to Shelter Unhoused  Residents (RFP Released)
  • October 2020 – Focus Strategies Study
  • November 2020 – CDBG-CV3 Fund Recommendations and Substantial Agreement
  • December 2020 – Unhoused Resident Coordinator Hired

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