Paul Halstead: Grand Jury Report: Investing in housing for people experiencing homelessness in Nevada County
After reading the 2018-19 Grand Jury report, “Investing in Housing for People Experiencing Homelessness in Nevada County”, these were the important takeaways. *My comments follow excerpts of the report.
“Since designating homelessness as a priority in early 2017, a review of BoS meeting minutes confirms that only one significant progress review was given by HHSA personnel before 2018. The Jury believes this represents an unacceptable hands-off approach to an issue deemed a “priority.”
“In December 2018 the Nevada County Board of Supervisors approved and adopted the Ten Year Strategic Plan to Address Homelessness. The strategies offered in the 2018 Ten Year Plan must be developed into a specific implementation plan with goals, priorities, planned outcomes, timelines, responsibilities, accountabilities, and key measurements to meet the very real challenge of insufficient low-income housing units.
“The County is the only entity that can take the primary leadership position in addressing the homeless issue. The BoS and Nevada County Chief Executive Officer, (Alison Lehman), should embrace this role. Homelessness should be a regular agenda item for BoS meetings.”
*At least one Supervisor should show up at the monthly Continuum of Care meetings to stay informed as to what stakeholders are doing to alleviate problems surrounding homelessness. How can a plan be implemented if they are not showing up?
“There was broad agreement by the participants in the development of the Plan that the primary cause of homelessness in the County is the lack of affordable housing and the solution to ending homelessness is to have more affordable housing units.
“The Housing First model of providing housing for the homeless population has been endorsed by both the Federal Government (HUD) and the State of California. However, the Housing First approach will present challenges to the County since the current availability of low-income housing is virtually non-existent.”
*The County has failed to meet its goal for low or very low income housing, with only 56 units constructed out of 300 needed, according to the 2014-19 County Housing Element Report. Jurisdictions who fail to meet their goal may lose accreditation and will no longer be eligible for Community Block Grant Funds. Furthermore, Governor Newsome is beginning to sue cities and counties that don’t meet their housing goals.
“The BoS, and elected city officials from throughout the County, should form a collaborative entity, perhaps a Joint Powers Authority, with the mandate to establish county-wide rules and programs to facilitate the development of low-income housing.”
*Currently, the newly formed Nevada County Continuum of Care, (CoC), has a Housing Committee which could act as the Joint Powers Authority, but it needs the participation of a Supervisor and at least one representative from each of the Nevada City and Grass Valley city councils.
“Development of adequate numbers of housing units in the County will be a long-term project and there will be a continuing need for traditional emergency shelters, winter warming shelters, and other overnight options. The Ten Year Plan suggested the County should explore the risks and benefits of designing and maintaining an approved and managed camping location for overnight options. The analysis, findings, and conclusions should be shared with the public.”
*At a recent CoC meeting a Navigation Camp was dismissed out-of-hand by the director of housing. However, several homeless advocates thought it is extremely important to implement, considering the increasing ill health of the homeless population, the burden on law enforcement, and the extreme fire danger.
“There are citizens in the County who are actively working to facilitate and expand programs and services for citizens experiencing homelessness. Their dedication and commitment are commendable. There are vocal citizens on the other end of the spectrum who are opposed to any projects or programs related to the homeless occurring near their residences or businesses. There are many citizens in the middle who lack awareness of the magnitude of the issue, have never been personally affected by homelessness, and do not recognize the cost and risk to the County for failing to house people.
*The grant funding for the anticipated Navigation center did not materialize and while we wait for a significant number of low income units to be built, a supported Navigation Camp must be implemented as an interim solution. People need help now, not two or three years down the road. A managed camp would have showers, dumpsters, safe cooking area, access to medical services and peer support. People can begin to be stabilized while waiting for housing.
Pauli Halstead lives in Nevada City.
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