File photo. In May 2021 San Benito County Sheriff deputies and county representatives notified residents living in the San Benito Riverbed like Robert Orabune to relocate. Photo by John Chadwell.
File photo. In May 2021 San Benito County Sheriff deputies and county representatives notified residents living in the San Benito Riverbed like Robert Orabune to relocate. Photo by John Chadwell.

San Benito County will receive $2.4 million from the latest round of funding of $36 million that was announced in a press release by Gov. Gavin Newsom’s HomeKey Program. The funds will purchase 11 factory-built homes for the unhoused. The homes will include two two-bedroom and nine four-bedroom units to serve chronically homeless families with supportive services.

The purpose of HomeKey, according to the Department of Housing and Community Development, is to provide grant funding to eligible applicants to quickly acquire or rehabilitate or master lease a variety of housing types. Once developed, these projects will provide interim or permanent housing options for persons experiencing homelessness and who are also at risk of COVID-19.

According to the 2022 homeless count conducted in January, there are 357 people experiencing homelessness. That is a 26% increase from the last count in 2019.

The press release stated that $36 million is being directed to the HomeKey awards program, which has received $2.75 billion to create 12,676 units in California. In addition to San Benito County, the latest round of funding will provide housing and apartments in San Luis Obispo ($11.6 million), San Jose ($19.9 million) and Santa Cruz County ($2.2 million).

During the San Benito County Supervisors’ Nov. 22 meeting, Enrique Arreola, deputy director of community services and workforce development, told the board the county had received the HomeKey grant of $2.4 million.

“This is to build 11 housing units that will be used as interim housing,” Arreola said. “Each of the units would measure between 400 and 800 square feet and consist of two to four bedrooms. They will be located in the Market Center where there are currently five units there for a total of 16 units, once both projects are completed.”

He said the units will benefit homeless families who exit from the winter shelter program.

“They’ll receive case management housing navigation and wraparound services,” he said. “In addition, we’ll be applying for a third round of Home Key funding, which we anticipate the state will be releasing early next year.

Arreola said he was also notified that the county would receive an additional $360,000 for the Homeless Housing Assistance Program, on top of the $79,000 it received earlier in the year, for a total of $439,000.

“These funds will support the operations of the homeless shelter and other supportive services,” he said, adding that “there have been two cleanups in the [San Benito] river in the last couple of weeks. One on Nov. 14. This was in the river under the bridge by Brigantino Park. A second cleanup took place Nov. 21 at an encampment along San Juan Road and Hwy 156. So, it looks really nice in that area as well. We will also continue our efforts to clean up the river.

Arreola said last January the county conducted a head count of homeless people living in the same stretch of riverbed. He said there were approximately 65 adults living in the riverbed at that time. There were no families, he said.

Including the HomeKey program’s $2.4 million, Arreola told BenitoLink the county has secured approximately $4.5 million in grants for homeless services through the state and federal government in 2022. He said the county leases 11 apartments and housing units scattered about Hollister for individuals and families. Also, he said the winter shelter program for 20 homeless families has operated for over 35 years. However, he said, 2022 is the first year that program is not being provided because they’re being rehabbed through a $2.5-million grant. There are also six transitional housing units for people trying to find more permanent housing.

“We also are continuing to receive grants from the state for the Continuum of Care or COC program to end homelessness in Monterey and San Benito Counties,” he said. “We got homeless housing assistance program funds.”

In January of this year, the San Benito County Board of Supervisors approved a five-year plan aimed at reducing homelessness in Monterey and San Benito counties by 50%. 

According to its website, the COC program from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), provides funding for efforts by nonprofit providers and state and local governments to quickly rehouse homeless individuals and families while minimizing the trauma and dislocation caused to homeless individuals, families, and communities by homelessness.

“We’ve been getting three rounds of funding from each source,” he said, adding that the county is applying for a fourth round. “We’re pretty much consistently operating through grants.”


Related BenitoLink stories:

SBC homeless population grows by 26% | BenitoLink

Hollister counts its homeless population | BenitoLink

San Benito County sets goal of cutting homelessness by 50% in 5 years | BenitoLink

Tiny House village for homeless families taking shape in Hollister | BenitoLink

Hollister Migrant Housing Center receives $2.39 million grant | BenitoLink



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John Chadwell worked as a feature, news and investigative reporter for BenitoLink on a freelance basis for seven years, leaving the role in Sept. 2023. Chadwell first entered the U.S. Navy right out of...