Jessica Cejnar / Friday, Aug. 16, 2019 @ 7 p.m. / Homelessness
County, City, Nonprofits Take Little Steps, Face Challenges To Tackle Homelessness
While a consultant funded with state No Place Like Home dollars works on a permanent supportive housing plan for Del Norte, county officials and nonprofits are focusing on other ways to serve those who are homeless.
Small steps include the Del Norte County Department of Health and Human Services offering behavioral health services to those who visit Our Daily Bread Ministries. The rescue mission also offers meals five days a week and in the winter emergency shelters.
Most recently, the county has donated surplus lockers to Our Daily Bread, offering those living without shelter a safe place to store their things, said District 2 Supervisor Lori Cowan.
But when it comes to Our Daily Bread becoming a 24-hour shelter, progress is slow, says Program Coordinator Daphne Cortese-Dean. Though the organization received a $25,000 contribution from Dr. Kevin Caldwell last year, donations have dried up since then, she said.
“Financially we are struggling like never before,” Cortese-Dean said. “But as far as doing things well, we are making tremendous strides.”
When Caldwell made his donation to Our Daily Bread Ministries, the organization shut down its thrift store. According to Cortese-Dean, representatives thought the ministry could continue operating as an emergency shelter and a place where those who need it can come and get meals on donations, but contributions went way down.
The $25,000 the organization received has been used to keep up the services Our Daily Bread offers now, Cortese-Dean said. She said she herself took a pay cut and the organization is “barely surviving.”
However, Our Daily Bread has made progress toward becoming a full-time shelter, Cortese-Dean said. Stover Engineering is working on plans for the shelter and Our Daily Bread staff is working with the county building inspector to determine what is needed to progress, she said.
To become a shelter, according to Cortese-Dean, Our Daily Bread needs to install a sprinkler system at its Harrold Street facility. She said plans to work with an engineer to draw plans for one up before pursuing financial support to install the system.
A second thing that’s needed for Our Daily Bread to open up as a full-time rescue mission is repairing the building’s false ceiling, Cortese-Dean said. It’s missing in places, she said. The organization also needs to fix its leaky roof, she said.
“We are really just looking at what it is we actually need and we’re going to be looking at the community for help in that area,” Cortese-Dean said.
According to Cortese-Dean, the strides Our Daily Bread has made in the last six months including connecting its clients with the county Behavioral Health Branch. She said Our Daily Bread has also been working with the Social Services Branch to get its clients signed up for potential benefits.
Cortese-Dean said Cowan helped her make these connections.
Cortese-Dean said she also met with Del Norte County Sheriff Erik Apperson, whose deputies have coupons to give to anyone who needs a meal.
“They can come to the ministry,” Cortese-Dean said, adding that the ministry serves dinner three nights a week and breakfast twice a week, but it’s open 24-7. “Anyone who’s hungry can come to our door and knock and we’ll give them a meal-size portion.”
Meanwhile, Del Norte County used a $75,000 technical assistance loan from the No Place Like Home program to hire a consultant, Chico-based Housing Tools, to help the county develop a program to help those who are chronically mentally ill and chronically homeless.
The No Place Like Home program is a bond initiative former California Governor Jerry Brown signed into law in 2016, Cowan said. Those dollars can only be used to help those who are chronically mentally ill and chronically homeless and only for brick and mortar programs, she said.
Cowan said she sits on a homeless working group created by State Sen. Mike McGuire. Others who sit on that working group include District 4 Supervisor Gerry Hemmingsen, DHHS Director Heather Snow, County Administrative Officer Jay Sarina and Administrative Analyst Toni Self.
Crescent City Mayor Blake Inscore, City Manager Eric Wier, Crescent City Housing Authority Director Megan Miller and Crescent City Finance Director Linda Leaver also sit on the working group, Cowan said.
“It’s been the county and city together in these meetings and we, for the last few years, looked at what are they doing in other areas?” Cowan said.
Since the county chose to work with Housing Tools, which has experience with rural areas, the consultant and the working group has conducted public meetings and reached out to the community via the radio, newspaper and social media, Cowan said.
Housing Tools is also working with a realtor to look at suitable properties for a brick and mortar facility to work with the chronically homeless, Cowan said. Addressing a request from District 1 Supervisor Roger Gitlin for a list of vacant county-owned properties that could be used as a “staging area” for the homeless, Cowan said staff have been looking at properties with Housing Tools for months.
“We looked at all those properties,” she said. “We did all this research for the last six months. They took all that information and recently came up with a plan, options for us.”
Though she couldn’t say exactly when, Cowan said that plan will go before the Board of Supervisors soon.
According to Self, once Housing Tools determines a model for permanent supportive housing that could work for Del Norte, the county will use $500,000 in non-competitive No Place Like Home dollars to build it.
“We can’t utilize it for shelters,” Self said, adding that the amount is determined by results from Del Norte County's Point-in-Time count. “We can’t utilize it for anything other than permanent supportive housing for the chronically homeless.”
Administered by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Point-in-Time count determines the number of sheltered and unsheltered homeless individuals in a community as well as the number of beds that serve them.
Del Norte County will also have to have a development sponsor, Self said. A program has to offer both shelter and services for those who are homeless.
“We won’t realize the non-competitive portion until our project is awarded funding, but we won’t have any of that until we have an actual project,” she said.
Though a tiny house village is not considered permanent supportive housing and likely wouldn’t be eligible for the non-competitive No Place Like Home funding, representatives of such a program based in Medford will introduce the concept to the Del Norte County Board of Supervisors at its Aug. 27 meeting.
Mike Tompkins, a leader on True North Organizing Network’s Homeless Local Organizing Committee, said during the spring, he and other committee members met with representatives of Rogue Retreat, which operates Hope Village. Consisting of insulated tiny house duplex units, Hope Village offers gated supervised shelter to men, women and couples, according to its website.
Tompkins said there are 28 beds in 14 buildings, each divided into 6-by-10 units. Rather than outfitting each unit with plumbing and electricity, Hope Village has a commercial kitchen and showers and toilets in two trailers, he said. There are two existing buildings on the site, one housing Hope Village’s administration staff and the other serving as a community hall, Tompkins said.
“They charge rent. It’s something minimal for the first 60 days,” Tompkins said. “After that it starts going up.”
The key to Hope Village’s success, however, is a case management system, Tompkins said. Two staff members work with the organization’s clients to help them get sober, find employment and a place to live, he said. Though he didn’t know the exact percentage of clients that can hold down their own living space, Tompkins said it was high.
“When they finally let go of them, they’ve got a job, a place to live and they’re clean,” he said. “And they’re on the road to recovery, complete recovery, and they’ve gotten back into the system. That’s what makes it attractive.”
Along with the visit from Hope Village representatives, Cowan, Snow, local churches and Our Daily Bread Ministries is working on getting a mobile shower program up and running. Cortese-Dean said Our Daily Bread offered to be a site for a mobile shower and provide volunteers that could man it a few days a week.
Once Our Daily Bread gets its sprinkler system installed, Cortese-Dean said she’d also like go open a warming center this winter. That’s the ministry’s one-year goal, she said.
A warming center would be available to families with children, Cortese-Dean said. They would also be able to help people who are released from the hospital and have no shelter to go to, she said.
“With that warming center, we’d like to open it up to some activities where people are able to learn how to make soap and that soap would be used in the mobile shower unit,” she said. “They could learn quilting, how to make their own blankets, beading, knitting, crocheting. We’re looking for the public that has skills to come in and train because when people do something they feel better about themselves.”