• Kristy Moore

Tuolumne County accepts $500K to provide housing for the homeless and mentally ill

by Alex McClean - Union Democrat.

A survey conducted in January found at least 418 people in Tuolumne County who said they were homeless, and 68 of them said they had a mental illness.

Some may benefit from a $500,000 state grant the Tuolumne County Board of Supervisors accepted on Tuesday that aims to provide housing for people who are homeless, or at risk of becoming homeless, while at the same time suffering from a serious mental disorder.

“As you could imagine, it would be very hard to achieve health or other things if you’re living on the streets,” said Michael Wilson, director of the county Behavioral Health Department. “The idea is to house first and provide services after that on a regular basis.”

Funding comes from the state’s No Place Like Home program that dedicated up to $2 billion in bond proceeds to the housing for people suffering from mental illness and are homeless or at-risk of becoming homeless.

The county got the grant through a noncompetitive process in which it had to complete a plan to combat homelessness, which was also accepted by the board on Tuesday.

Issues contributing to homelessness identified in the plan included a lack of affordable housing, inadequate shelter options, lack of funding, lack of services for people experiencing homelessness, lack of employment opportunities, transportation challenges, and lack of coordination among service providers.

Sheila Shanahan, the county’s housing program coordinator, noted that the particular grant only targets a specific segment of the homeless population in the county. The January survey found 301 of the 418 people were living outside or in their vehicles.

Shanahan said they anticipate other funding to become available this year for temporary housing shelters and other services.

There are two emergency shelters in the county with a combined total of 32 beds.

The Amador-Tuolumne Community Action Agency operates a 25-bed shelter for people who are sober and actively seeking employment, while the Center for a Non Violent Community operates one with 12 beds exclusively for women and children escaping domestic violence.

People who receive housing through the No Place Like Home program would be encouraged — but not required — to seek supportive services, such as mental health counseling, life skills training, or job training.

Shanahan said the county must select a project for the $500,000 grant before the deadline on March 15, 2021.

The funding could be used to help leverage additional financing for a proposed 65-unit affordable housing rental project near the Oak Hills Apartments in Jamestown. A portion of the units would be used to house people who meet the requirements of the No Place Like Home program.

Visionary Home Builders, a nonprofit affordable housing developer based in Stockton, has expressed interest in teaming with the county on the project. They would also manage the apartments moving forward.

Shanahan said it would be similar to how the county helped secure $3.3 million in funding that was used to finance the $7 million renovation of the Tuolumne Apartments, a 52-unit affordable rental complex in Tuolumne that’s managed by the Michaels Organization.

Ron Kopf, who’s working as a development consultant for the landowner of the proposed site, encouraged the board to accept the grant because he said it’s one piece of many that will have to come together for the project to work.

A project to renovate a 10-unit apartment complex at 241 Hospital Road in Sonora is also underway with $302,412 the county received last year through the state’s Homeless Emergency Aid Program.

The county worked with the Stanislaus County Housing Authority to leverage the funding and purchase the complex.

Two of the vacant units will soon be leased by clients of the county Behavioral Health Department who were homeless, according to county officials. Other units will be offered to Behavioral Health and low-income clients of local nonprofit organizations as they become available.

Contact Alex MacLean at or (209) 588-4530.

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