At its Sept. 17 regular meeting, the Hollister City Council declared a homeless shelter crisis within the city and will seek to participate in the Homeless Emergency Aid Program (HEAP).
Enrique Arreola, deputy director of the San Benito County Health and Human Services Agency, told the council that declaring a shelter crisis would allow San Benito County to seek state funding to combat homelessness.
Gov. Jerry Brown and the California Legislature approved funding for local governments, Arreola said, as part of SB 850, which was approved by Brown on June 27 and deals with housing.
Arreola added that Hollister is joining San Benito County, which approved the declaration about a month ago. He also said San Juan Bautista is looking to declare a shelter crisis next month. He said each jurisdiction of the county must declare a shelter crisis before being eligible for funding.
According to the Homeless Emergency Aid Program (HEAP) website, “The shelter crisis declaration is required for all cities and counties within a CoC [Continuum of Care] that wish to receive HEAP funds, except for CoCs with fewer than 1,000 homeless people, based on the 2017 Point in Time count.”
Continuum of Care is a program designed to promote community wide commitment to end homelessness, according to HUD Exchange.
The HEAP website states that if a Continuum of Care has fewer than 1,000 homeless people, it may submit with its application a waiver exempting all cities and counties that are part of the CoC from declaring a shelter crisis.
The Continuum of Care that San Benito County participates in was allotted $12.5 million, Arreola said. The other two members are the cities of Monterey and Salinas.
San Benito County is seeking approximately $2.6 million for various programs in support of housing homeless, Arreola said.
There are still other documents that need to be submitted by the Dec. 31 deadline, Arreola said via email. Services will start around March 2019 if funded.
Councilwoman Mickie Luna asked if it was a requirement to have a shelter in order to qualify.
Arreola said a homeless shelter is not a requirement as long as programs are built to increase the number of beds available for the homeless.
During its Sept. 11 meeting, the San Benito County Board of Supervisors approved a $1.2 million contract with Tombleson, Inc. for phase 2 of the Housing Opportunities Meals Empowerment (HOME) Resource Center at 1161 San Felipe Road.
The Phase 2 plan includes constructing staff offices, client training rooms, kitchen and laundry facilities.
The shelter has 50 beds available for adults—28 in the men’s dorm and 22 in the women’s dorm, and private showers. It also allows pets in the back courtyard.
Mayor Ignacio Velazquez said he was impressed with the county’s ability to offer a quality shelter.
According to the agenda packet, the shelter crisis declaration will be in effect until it is terminated by the City Council. Councilmembers did not discuss when termination might occur.
The 2017 San Benito County Point-In-Time Homeless Census indicated the population of homeless individuals in the county was 527, of which 77 percent, or 406 persons, were unsheltered.
The census also indicates 90 percent of that population lived in San Benito County before becoming homeless. And of those who lived in the county, 63 percent have lived in the streets more than a year.
From 2011 to 2015, the homeless population in San Benito County increased from 193 to 651. There were 365 homeless individuals in 2013, according to a census which is conducted every two years.