Homelessness was on the Riverside County Board of Supervisors’ Tuesday, Jan. 30 agenda and the board unanimously approved allocating money to begin to mitigate the problem.
A 27-page report, prepared by a committee of county agency and cities, identified three major goals, four strategies for achieving these goals and 23 recommendations.
“This will culminate the efforts of numerous agencies and cities,” said Public Social Services Director Susan von Zabern. She emphasized that the response to homelessness is not solely Riverside County’s responsibility. To succeed, “we must engage cities and community based organization in a regional response,” she said.
The first step was creating a position within the County Executive’s Office to be a leader on homelessness issues within the county. Funding for this position will be shared among four departments — Department of Public Social Services, the Economic Development Agency, the Behavioral Health Department from the Riverside University Health System and the CEO’s office.
The board also plans a workshop for Feb. 27 to hear and discuss more about this problem in Riverside County.
The goals are to prevent homelessness among individuals and families at risk, end homelessness for those living on the streets, and ensure funding to end and to prevent homelessness.
Among the 23 recommendations will be efforts to increase bridge housing, to increase permanent affordable housing, to increase the number of home-based case managers and to enhance work opportunities.
The initial $585,000, which comes from existing U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development grants to the county, will aid 80 households.
The majority of the money will go toward what’s known as the Project Home Program to provide housing services to homeless families in Riverside County. The Riverside Community Housing Corp., the county’s nonprofit housing organization, will use the $300,000 in Community Development Block Grant funding countywide to stabilize housing for 35 households. The money will go to services such as rent, security deposits, case management, outreach and staff salaries.
The RCHP also will receive $250,000 in supplemental Emergency Solutions Grant funding to provide expanded rapid re-housing assistance to 25 individuals and families. The money also will go toward comprehensive homelessness services.
Last month, the county conducted its annual point-in-time homeless count. The January 2017 survey identified 2,413 homeless county residents. This is 248 more individuals (about 11.4 percent) than were identified in January 2016. This was the first countywide increase since 2011. During this period, Riverside County’s homeless population decreased 61 percent.
Of the 2,400 homeless, 12 percent were under age 24 and 21 percent were chronically homeless.
A homeless increase is not limited to Riverside County. Many other counties and cities throughout the state are encountering increases in their homeless populations.