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Courtesy of the Calaveras Enterprise - Written by By Noah Berner noah@calaverasenterprise.com


On Sept. 9, the Calaveras County Health and Human Services Agency (HHSA), in collaboration with multiple partners, is holding a community meeting to discuss current efforts to help county residents that lack stable housing. The meeting will be held 5:30 p.m.-7 p.m. at San Andreas Elementary School.





DOWNLOAD CALAVERAS COUNTY'S PLAN TO END HOMELESSNESS HERE.


The Calaveras County Homeless Task Force has been working to identify local needs and determine strategies to help community members who lack stable housing move toward self-sufficiency. The task force was created in May of 2018 from multiple agencies and community members to address the issue of stable housing.


According to the 2019 Point in Time count, which measures the number of people experiencing homelessness during a one-week period in January, there are currently about 186 individuals in Calaveras County experiencing homelessness. This equals about 0.4% of the county’s population and is slightly above the state average.


Last year, Calaveras County successfully competed in the first of four rounds of state funding for the No Place Like Home (NPLH) Program, which was enacted in 2016 and provides $2 billion in bonds across the state to aid in the development of permanent supportive housing for people with severe mental illness who are homeless or at risk of experiencing homelessness.


The NPLH bonds will be repaid over a period of several decades, with interest, with revenue from Proposition 63.


Proposition 63, also known as the Mental Health Services Act (MHSA), was passed in 2004, and imposed an additional 1% income tax on personal incomes in excess of $1 million in order to fund mental health programs across the state.


In 2018, California voters passed Proposition 2, which enabled MHSA funds to be used for homelessness prevention housing for those in need of mental health services.


The county’s NPLH funding is being used to construct five housing units in San Andreas for Calaveras County residents that lack stable housing and are engaged in their recovery plans. A minimum of two of the units will be dedicated to families with children.


The developer and property manager of the new units will be the Stanislaus Regional Housing Authority (SRHA), a nonprofit, public corporation designated by the state to address the housing needs of communities in Alpine, Amador, Calaveras, Inyo, Mariposa, Mono, Stanislaus and Tuolumne counties. The SRHA also administers the Housing Choice Voucher Program (formerly known as Section 8).


The HHSA Behavioral Health Division will provide around-the-clock supportive services for residents of the county’s NPLH units. Among these services will be mental health crisis intervention, therapy (individual and group), medication treatment, substance use disorder treatment, supportive employment and ongoing tenant education.


Other county efforts to address homelessness include the scattered site emergency shelter pilot project, which aims to build several mobile tiny-house shelters in West Point and San Andreas, and provide intensive case management for residents temporarily placed in the units; and the Vision House in Murphys, which offers transitional living opportunities for individuals with severe mental illness that are engaged in their recovery plans and are on the path to permanent housing and self-sufficiency.


The county is currently preparing for the next round of NPLH funding, which it plans to use for a 16-unit development in Valley Springs that will also serve veterans.


At the Sept. 9 meeting, the HHSA and various partners will answer questions about the NPLH Program and discuss other efforts to help those in the community who lack stable housing.




See full story here.

Updated: Aug 22, 2019

By Alex MacLean - Union Democrat




Results from a recent housing survey confirmed what many people looking for a place to rent in the City of Sonora have already learned – rental costs are becoming increasingly unaffordable for most tenants.


The survey was sent via mail to all 2,399 housing units in the city as part of the process to update the housing element in the city’s General Plan, which must be done every five years under California law.


Rachelle Kellogg, the city’s community development director, went over the results of the survey with the Sonora City Council at a public meeting on Monday.


Rental households accounted for 203 of the 734 completed surveys that were returned to the city.


The number of owner-occupied households that were overpaying was 183, or 35 percent, while the number of rental households was 116, or 57 percent.


People are considered to be overpaying when their monthly housing costs exceeds 35 percent of their monthly income.


“It’s pretty blatant we have an issue going on with rental housing,” Kellogg said. “People renting are really being hit hard right now.”


Part of the problem is due to a lack of vacancies, as well as wages that aren’t keeping pace with the increasing costs of rent.


The U.S. Census Bureau estimated that the city’s median household income was about $42,000, while the statewide median was about $67,000.


Kellogg interviewed managers of 17 multi-family housing facilities in the city, five of which were restricted either to seniors, people with disabilities, or low-income.


The 12 non-restricted facilities had a combined total of 163 housing units, only two of which were available to rent. Monthly rents ranged from $610 to $1,200 based on the size of the unit.


Managers reportedly said that they rarely advertise units when they do become vacant, and they are usually occupied within 30 to 60 days.


Kellogg said more people seem to be moving back to areas like Sonora where it’s easier to get places. She also noted an older demographic is moving to the area for the number of nearby health care facilities.


There’s also an issue with an increasing number of viable properties being used for short-term rentals, such as Airbnb. Kellogg said there are 34 known Airbnb units in the city that could have otherwise been sold or rented.


“We’re going to be bringing back some ideas and policies and programs and goals” to help with the rental market issue, Kellogg said.


One of the ideas Kellogg suggested could be to encourage the development of more accessory dwelling units, which she noted the city has never discouraged.


Kellogg said one thing the council will have to decide is whether to allow accessory dwelling units to be used as Airbnbs, which some areas are making rules to prevent.


While requiring accessory dwelling units to be for long-term rentals could be good for tenants, Kellogg noted that will have to be weighed with the benefits that Airbnbs can provide to the local economy through tourism.


The city’s housing element will need show through zoning that the city can accommodate the development of 115 new housing units by 2024, a number allocated by the state based on overall housing needs and area-specific factors.


Tuolumne County’s requirement is 525 new units.


“The city has to demonstrate that we have enough properly zoned property to fit the amount of housing units needed,” Kellogg said. “We do not have to construct them, just show that we can accommodate them in our housing element.”


Kellogg plans to present an updated housing element to the council for approval in October, after getting approval from the state Department of Housing and Community Development.


Also at the meeting on Monday, the council voted 4-1 to approve providing a portion of the roughly $5,300 needed to rent three portable toilets for a one-year trial at the homeless camp off the north side of Stockton Road.


The city’s share of the funding will be a maximum of $1,750, while the Sonora Area Foundation and Amador-Tuolumne Community Action Agency have agreed to provide the rest.


Councilwoman Connie Williams voted against the funding agreement, despite working behind the scenes to help bring ATCAA into the fold, because of the lack of support from the county.


“I’m very disappointed with the county that they couldn’t come up with $1,750 to support this project,” Williams said. “I understand there is a problem with money in the county, but they do have discretionary funds.”


The county is facing a $3.7 million budget deficit.


The land in question is owned by brothers Larry and Delbert Rotelli outside of the city limits, which required the council to make a finding that using the money to improve the health of the city’s homeless population would ultimately benefit all city residents.


Give Someone a Chance, a Jamestown-based nonprofit organization that provides aid to the homeless, will receive the money for the toilets as a donation and assume all liability and responsibility to oversee them.


Councilwoman Colette Such thanked the various people who helped make the project happen.


“This isn’t a solution to homelesness, but it’s a small step to make their lives a little easier, protect public health and protect the merchants from putting up with things they shouldn’t have to put up with,” she said.


Contact Alex MacLean at amaclean@uniondemocrat.com or (209) 588-4530.

By Noah Berner noah@calaverasenterprise.com




In recent years, Calaveras County has taken more steps to address homelessness with the help of new funding from the state.


This year, the state has budgeted $1 billion in funding for programs to help the homeless.

The No Place Like Home (NPLH) Program has provided resources for addressing homelessness in the county over the past two years, while the California Emergency Solutions and Housing (CESH) Program and the Homeless Emergency Aid Program (HEAP) have both offered one-time resources to help homeless and at-risk populations.

“With the prior governor’s budget, there’s been a multitude of resources that have come down from the state level over the past year, so there’s a lot to navigate in terms of identifying what resources would work best for our community,” Health and Human Services Director Kristin Stranger said during a presentation to the Calaveras County Board of Supervisors on May 28.


Last year, Calaveras County established the Homeless Task Force, an association committed to reducing and eventually ending homelessness in the county. Since May of 2018, and the group has met once a month to formulate strategies to assist those in the community who lack stable housing.


The Homeless Task Force is made up of a variety of agencies and organizations, including Health and Human Services, the Office of Emergency Services, Probation, the Calaveras County Sheriff’s Office, the Environmental Management Agency, the Calaveras County Office of Education, the U.S. Forest Service, employment and training providers, faith-based organizations, members of the health care community, tribal partners and homeless advocates.


The group has been working alongside the Central Sierra Continuum of Care (CoC), which works to secure and provide funding to alleviate homelessness, and encompasses four counties, Amador, Calaveras, Mariposa and Tuolumne.


In January of this year, the Calaveras Health and Human Services Agency/Behavioral Health Services division issued the “Calaveras County Strategic Plan to Address Homelessness.” The plan details the issue of homelessness in the county and puts forth steps to address it.

For some time, homelessness has been on the rise across California, which has a larger homeless population than any state in the country. This is partly due to the high cost of housing. While rent in the state is 40% higher than the national average, income is only 18% higher, according to the Homeless Plan.


In Calaveras County, lack of available housing is also a significant problem. Currently, 35% of all homes in the county are unoccupied, 92% of which are unavailable for rent or sale, the Homeless Plan indicates.


The 2015 Butte Fire, which destroyed 921 structures, including 549 homes, led to a 10% increase in the homeless population of the county, according to the Homeless Plan.

To qualify for state funding, communities are required to conduct Point-in-Time (PIT) counts to identify those experiencing homelessness during one week in January. According to the 2019 PIT count, there are 186 individuals in Calaveras County who meet the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s definition of homeless.


“With truly robust collaboration, we saw a huge uptick in terms of community participation to do the PIT count for this year … The results demonstrate what are more accurate numbers than the previous 19 people that were identified (in the previous PIT count),” Stranger said during her presentation.


However, because of the way in which the PIT count is determined, as well as unique challenges in determining the number of homeless individuals in rural areas, it likely underestimates the number of those experiencing homelessness in the county, according to the Homeless Plan.


The Homeless Plan cites Medi-Cal and CalWorks data, which suggests that the number of individuals experiencing homelessness or have been at risk of homelessness at any point during the year has increased by 35% in Calaveras County since 2013. This data indicates that over 800 Medi-Cal and CalWorks recipients in Calaveras County experienced some form of homelessness in 2017-18.


These numbers include “households who are doubled up, couch surfing or housed in substandard living conditions, though they do not include low-income households without children under age 18,” according to the Homeless Plan.


Almost 20% of public-school students in Calaveras County experienced a degree of homelessness in 2016 – significantly higher than the 4.4% state average – according to data from a Lucile Packard Foundation for Children’s Health program, kidsdata.org.

Homelessness is found throughout the county, not only in certain areas.


“It’s everywhere. There was no distinct area that had a tremendous amount more than others when you look at the numbers … which again speaks to the fact that we don’t look necessarily like our partners in Amador or in Tuolumne … We don’t really have a distinct city center – we don’t have a Jackson, we don’t have a Sonora – so our service delivery has to look a little bit different here in Calaveras County, because we have very distinct communities that are scattered throughout our entire county,” Stranger said.


The Homeless Plan outlines a variety of programs and strategies for helping those in need of shelter. Some are long-term policies, others are new, and still others are planned.

More than 20 agencies and organizations in the county are currently providing services for homeless, low-income and disabled residents.


Among these are the Amador-Tuolumne Community Action Agency, Calaveras County Behavioral Health, Calaveras County Health and Human Services-Social Services, the Central-Sierra Continuum of Care, Sierra HOPE, the Stanislaus County Housing Authority and Blue Mountain Coalition for Youth and Families.


New resources include the Behavioral Health Vocational Program, which will provide services to clients diagnosed with severe or chronic mental illness who express interest in employment.


Calaveras’ HEAP aims to build roughly 10 emergency tiny-house shelters to house those experiencing homelessness as the first step in a scattered site emergency shelter project.

Partnering with Sierra HOPE, the county plans to purchase a building and convert it into 30 to 32 units for Section 8 and Veteran’s Affairs Supportive Housing.


The planned Foothill Terrace Workforce Housing Development in San Andreas will offer 22-25 580-square-foot, one-bedroom units, each estimated to cost $155,000, to provide county residents with low-cost housing.


Five low-income housing units are also planned on a quarter acre close to the Wellness Center in San Andreas to house residents with mental illness and homeless or at risk of becoming homeless.


The Homeless Plan includes improvements in outreach and education; prevention, diversion, and community services; crisis intervention; affordable housing; and supportive housing.


http://www.calaverasenterprise.com/community/article_5403f29a-b9fd-11e9-8d73-572f6c0994a1.html

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