Governor’s Statewide Homeless and Supportive Housing Task Force Meeting
September 12, 2019
The first meeting of Governor Newsom’s Statewide Homeless and Supportive Housing Advisory Task Force took place Friday, September 6, at the Stanislaus Veterans Center in Modesto. The agenda included five discussion items open to the public, including presentations (below) by the Homeless Coordinating and Financing Council, Stanislaus County and the City of Modesto, the working group on behavioral health, and the working group on shelters/navigation centers.
With a diverse group of interested stakeholders in attendance, Co-Chairs Los Angeles Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas and Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg each made opening remarks followed by Jason Elliott, Chief Deputy Cabinet Secretary for the Governor’s Office, and Dr. Mark Ghaly, Secretary of the Health and Human Services Agency. The prevailing theme was the importance of and need for regional approaches to addressing homelessness.
Task force leadership stated that the answers and successful approaches are actually known and happening in communities throughout California; however, the goal of the Task Force will be to visit those communities and highlight those successes so they can be spread as best practices. Supervisor Ridley-Thomas highlighted the establishment of CSAC’s Homelessness Action Team as an indication of the collective interest of County Supervisors in maximizing their impact on homelessness in a collaborative way. The Governor’s Office explained the important role the Task Force will play in assisting local jurisdictions to develop regional plans that are required to access state homelessness aid funding included in the 2019-20 Budget—helping to use the funding wisely and most effectively.
Stanislaus County Supervisor Terry Withrow was joined by other local officials in giving a detailed account of efforts to address homelessness locally. The presentation highlighted the community’s emphasis on collaboration and new focus on prevention, rather than just treating symptoms. Several new projects were described which combine for over 600 new beds in Stanislaus County, including capacity for shelters, transitional housing, and permanent supportive housing.
Two working groups presented before the Task Force—first, the Behavioral Health Working group and then the Shelter/Navigation Center Working Group. Among many recommendations, the Behavioral Health presentation included the importance of consumer-centered decision making and the framing of “mental health” services through strategic street outreach and engagement. The Shelter/Navigation Center presentation encompassed the importance of assessing a community’s need for crisis resources, including optimizing shelter capacity, accommodating the needs of the unsheltered homeless, designing responses for those not adequately served, and designing each shelter bed with a housing exit resource.
Each presentation was met with critical follow-up questions from members of the Task Force, which includes San Diego County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher and Riverside County Supervisor V. Manuel Perez. Questions led to further discussions on the use of Mental Health Services Act funding, litigation considerations, city/county siting relationships, self-governance in shelters, workforce development, use of comprehensive data systems, and challenges related to the use of 9-1-1 as a system entry point.
The engagement among Task Force members, and vast scope of the challenges California communities are facing, sets a compelling stage for future Task Force meetings.