Jessica Cejnar Andrews / Tuesday, June 27, 2023 @ 4:41 p.m.

Del Norte's Tiny Home Permanent Housing Program Part Of Broader Scheme In Tackling Homelessness

Del Norte Mission Possible founder Daphne Lambert began recruiting those who lived in local homeless encampments to help clean them up in 2021. | File photo: Jessica C. Andrews


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Del Norte County will explore tiny homes near the old juvenile hall facility on Williams Drive as a tool to help people out of homelessness.

Those tiny homes will be part of a larger multi-agency approach to the problem, which includes establishing a navigation center that would steer clients toward an emergency shelter before they graduated to pallet homes as transitional housing.

A local homelessness ad-hoc committee envisions building eight to 10 tiny homes at the 6-acre Williams Drive site as permanent supportive housing. It’s a component that had been missing from the overall plan and foiled the county’s previous attempts to obtain state Encampment Relief Funding, said District 5 Supervisor Dean Wilson, who sits on the committee.

Del Norte County will make a third attempt at pursuing Encampment Relief Funding dollars, according to Wilson, and will pursue Project HomeKey money as secondary funding to build the tiny homes. But the application deadline is in two weeks, Wilson said Tuesday.

Wilson’s colleague, Board Chairman Darrin Short, who also sits on the homeless ad-hoc committee, said the committee knows county property on Williams Drive also includes the agricultural department and two Del Norte County Sheriff’s Office buildings.

“We understand we’re going to have to make some adjustments to our plan and that is allowed under the HomeKey grant for rehabilitation of the property,” Short told his colleagues. “We have that big mental health building that’s not in the greatest state of repair. The Homekey grant will also allow us to deal with that building as well if that was in the Board’s liking.”

Short also pointed out that the Del Norte County Probation Department is planning on its new Youth Opportunity Center for the Williams Drive area. The Del Norte County Office of Education also controls buildings on that site.

On Tuesday, the Board of Supervisors voted 3-1-1 in favor of drafting a resolution to pursue additional money through Project HomeKey as secondary funding to build those tiny homes. District 3 Supervisor Chris Howard was absent.

District 4 Supervisor Joey Borges dissented, saying he was opposed to the location.

“I really want to be supportive of this because I know there’s a need,” he said. “Is there a possibility for a different location? The second part, once the grant is done, how do we fund it?”

A dollar amount for the tiny house project hasn’t been determined yet, Department of Health and Human Services Director Ranell Brown told the Wild Rivers Outpost.  

“That will be determined as we move through preparing the application and then bring it back to the Board with the resolution,” she said.

According to Brown, one of the county’s tasks in preparing its HomeKey application is determining whether the endeavor is feasible, which includes evaluating operating costs and demonstrating that it could sustain the tiny house program for up to five years.

Once Del Norte County staff return to the Board of Supervisors with a resolution it will be too late to make changes, County Counsel Joel Campbell-Blair said.

In February, True North Organizing Network representative Alison Ramsay, who also sits on the homelessness ad-hoc committee, introduced her colleagues to Encampment Resolution Funding grants, saying there is $240 million available to programs aiming to move people from encampments to permanent housing quickly.

At that Feb. 1 meeting, Del Norte Mission Possible founder Daphne Cortese-Lambert said she envisioned two navigation centers that would help people find shelter and a safe place to store their property.

Those who wanted out of the camps would move to an 24-7 emergency shelter at 1135 Harrold Street in Crescent City where they would meet with a case manager and, if they’re achieving their goals, graduate to a pallet home program.

The pallet home program would include an on-site shower, port-a-potties, a garden, storage and laundry, according to Cortese-Lambert.

A tiny home village would provide permanent supportive housing, Cortese-Lambert said at that February meeting.

On Tuesday, Wilson said California Business, Consumer Services and Housing Agency, which is offering the ERF grant, wanted to see a design for all three phases of their project and as well, as where that program is being proposed.

“There was not one with our last application,” Wilson told his colleagues. “A 24-7, 365 shelter (was) part of this. Those that are successful would move up to the smaller pallet home living and those that can be successful in making that transition would then move to permanent housing elsewhere in the community. But having all three phases in place for the program is part of the dollars that are being pushed out by the state and that we’re attempting to reach.”

Wilson said those who have reached the point where they’re occupying those tiny homes have “shown their ability to manage and be able to live in these dwellings.”

“Right now our focus is getting something done so that not only do we have locations for those that want to go into these types of programs,” Wilson said, adding that the county could enforce camping ordinances as a result. “But it will give the county the ability to say, ‘We have a place for you to go. You cannot be out in our community, out in our woods, camping and staying and living and stealing and doing your illicit behaviors. We have a location for you to go to.’ Whether they choose to utilize those services, that’s up to them.”

Cortese-Lambert said those who get to the pallet homes get job training skills and learn how to be good tenants before moving on to permanent supportive housing. Families could also be living in these tiny homes, she said. There will also be security, including 24-7 surveillance.

“I’d love for you to walk back there and see how it’s not going to be by the road,” Cortese-Lambert told Borges. “We’re going to address all those concerns and that will be a priority.”

Del Norte County has explored the concept of solving homelessness using tiny houses since at least 2019 when the Medford-based organization Rogue Retreat introduced the Board of Supervisors to its program, Hope Village.

On Tuesday, county resident Sam Strait referred to “numerous published reports” stating that California houses 25 percent of the nation’s entire homeless population, saying it appears Del Norte County’s homeless population has also increased.

“How does it make sense for the county to get involved and yet continue to have a homeless population in increasing numbers,” Strait asked. “It boggles the mind that you’re considering trying to do something of this nature. It seems like all you’re going to do is promote more homelessness.”

According to the 2022 Point-in-Time report, 462 people in Del Norte County identified as homeless.


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