Contra Costa Launching New Approach to Homelessness
April 27, 2006
The Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors is launching a unique approach to funding services to end chronic homelessness within ten years. The Board recently approved a strategy to explore a cutting-edge effort for the county, all of its 19 cities, faith-based and community organizations and other groups to find sustainable long-term support for critical programs.
The new effort builds on action nearly two years ago when the Board of Supervisors approved an ambitious plan, "Ending Homelessness in Ten Years: A county-wide Plan for the Communities of Contra Costa County. Hailed as the first of its kind in the State of California, the Plan provides a blueprint for comprehensive services to realize the goal of ending chronic homelessness.
Supervisor Mark DeSaulnier, who with Supervisor John Gioia spearheaded the Board's recent action, says the first step in implementing that plan was to establish the Homeless Inter-Jurisdictional Interdepartmental work Group (HIJIDWG). The Work Group has moved ahead with nearly a third of the 10 Year Plan's priorities, strategies and action steps focusing on integrated services, production of new units of permanent supportive housing and outreach to chronically homeless people.
"I am encouraged that now we can look ahead to a time when we can offer the homeless men, women and children in our County more than simple shelter. Working together I believe we will all benefit and may even create a model that others may wish to follow," said DeSaulnier.
He stresses that the Interdepartmental Work Group was a good beginning. "What we've realized is that to fully achieve the Plan, we must tackle the tough questions about how to fund these strategies in a consistent way over the long term."
According to Supervisor John Gioia, many faith-based groups and some foundations have done their part to meet the needs of people who are homeless. They've provided funds for some supplemental shelter and food. "The county has provided virtually all of the other funding. We can't do that anymore," he says.
According to the Supervisors, this new phase of the plan implementation will bring together the broadest possible range of stakeholders, some of whom have never been involved in planning. The group will "scope" the long-term needs of the homeless population and opportunities for financial sustainability, along with research on how others across the country are funding their efforts.
"We're going to work to create a vision and concrete actions for maintaining consistent funding, rather than putting band aids on the problem and having programs threatened each year by budget cuts," says Gioia. He points to the current year as an example, when critical outreach services to homeless people who camp in local parks and other areas, is facing more reductions. "It will take commitment from every segment of the community to realize our goal."
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