Collaborating to Improve Homelessness Policies and Projects
November 7, 2019
As a continuation of an ongoing partnership between CSAC and the League of California Cities aimed at best positioning local leaders in their response to homelessness, Monday, November 4, marked a jointly hosted Homelessness Policy Workshop in Sacramento. The event included over 350 attendees, including county Supervisors, county executive staff, city Mayors, city council members, city managers, department leaders, community organizations, and staff from the Legislature and state Administration. Local collaboration and partnerships was the theme of the event, which included presentations on a previous joint homelessness task force; state funding administered through the Homeless Coordinating and Financing Council; county, city, and nonprofit collaboration in Santa Clara County and San Bernardino County; and Governor Newsom’s Council of Regional Homeless Advisors.
As the joint chairs of the CSAC and League joint homelessness task force, Yolo County Supervisor Oscar Villegas and Grass Valley Council Member Jan Arbuckle kicked-off the panels with an overview of the task force work. In 2018, the task force produced a comprehensive overview of city and county best practices and funding streams used to address homelessness. This work embodied the collaboration necessary to make meaningful progress on a complex issue. The joint task force was successful and provided cities and counties with a helpful toolkit, but at the time, state General Fund investments in homelessness were scarce, which made use of the toolkit difficult for local governments.
Enter the Homelessness Coordinating and Financing Council (HCFC). There have now been two rounds of state funding—the Homeless Emergency Aid Program (HEAP) in 2018-19 and the Homeless Housing, Assistance, and Prevention Program (HHAP) in 2019-20. Lahela Mattox from HCFC, the administering entity for these funds, shared examples of HEAP projects that embody multi-jurisdictional collaboration and walked through HHAP funding application requirements (including regional collaboration), timelines, and eligible uses. Through the leadership of League President John Dunbar (Mayor of Yountville) and CSAC President Virginia Bass (Humboldt County Supervisor), a brief interruption from a group of homelessness advocates during the panel was turned to a positive event. Microphones were offered to the group so that they could address the audience with advice originating from personal and profound experiences with homelessness.
The day also included two panels designed to provide direct and replicable examples of counties, cities, housing authorities, and community-based organizations working collaboratively to implement innovative homelessness programs and projects. The San Bernardino panel, moderated by Philip Mangano, Chief Executive Officer of the American Round Table to Abolish Homelessness, featured six innovative and regional programs that can be replicated in other parts of the state. These innovations are results oriented, cost effective, strategic investments, and include the use of technology. The Santa Clara and San Jose presentation highlighted how government, nonprofit, and private sector partners in Santa Clara County have significantly expanded and improved the supportive housing system. But despite their progress, the number of individuals and families who experience homelessness, or who request assistance to prevent homelessness, far exceeds available resources. The panel shared how their 2020-2025 Community Plan to End Homelessness aims to address the systemic causes of homelessness.
The last panel of the day included a discussion between the leaders of Governor Newsom’s Council of Regional Homeless Advisors: Mark Ghaly, Secretary of the Health and Human Services Agency, Mark Ridley-Thomas, Los Angeles County Supervisor, and Darrell Steinberg, Mayor of the City of Sacramento. The panel discussion was framed by the Governor’s recent ask of his Council—focus their remaining work on developing concrete short-term actions and longer-term recommendations for the state to partner with local communities and the private sector to: 1) end street homelessness, 2) break down barriers to building more housing, and 3) get more people into treatment.
The Homelessness Policy Workshop highlighted that collaboration at all levels is key in addressing homelessness and provided attendees with examples of successful partnerships that may be replicable in their communities as they implement local programs and apply for state funding.