Stanislaus and Merced counties each will receive $2.5 million to tackle homelessness in their communities.
The money is included in California’s new $183 billion budget, which Gov. Jerry Brown signed Tuesday. Stanislaus County Supervisor Terry Withrow credited Assemblyman Adam Gray, D-Merced, with securing the money.
Stanislaus County launched Focus on Prevention two years ago to deal with homelessness through a communitywide approach. Withrow said Gray met with him and other county officials a few months ago to learn more about the initiative.
“He sat down with us with some of his staff,” Withrow said. “He was impressed with Focus on Prevention and that it was not just another county program, that it was community driven. And he wanted to help get money for us. He was sold with the movement that was happening in Stanislaus County.” Withrow said he hopes Focus on Prevention can leverage the $2.5 million to obtain donations from the private sector.
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Merced County officials did not return a phone call seeking comment.
The Assembly bill that includes the funding states it is for navigation centers that include temporary housing and case managers who place the homeless in permanent housing. But the details of how the money will be spent need to be worked out, said Ruben Imperial, Stanislaus County’s community development and empowerment manager. Withrow said the county will work with its Focus on Prevention partners in deciding how to spend the money.
Imperial said Gray — whose Assembly district encompasses Merced and part of Stanislaus counties — will meet with Focus on Prevention’s Stewardship Council and the Stanislaus Community System of Care, which includes agencies that serve the homeless, probably in August or September. Gray said in a statement the public also can weigh in at the meeting.
“California’s record high housing prices have made homelessness an increasingly visible issue,” Gray said in a statement issued Tuesday. “In my capacity as Chair of the Select Committee on Homelessness, I have worked cooperatively with local elected leaders to identify solutions to this issue in Merced (County) and Stanislaus County.
“While there seems to be no shortage of ideas to address the problem, a lack of funding and limited resources has been a consistent problem. The budget approved today by the Governor contains $2.5 million each for Merced (County) and Stanislaus County to finally put these good ideas into practice. Now that the funding is secured, I will work diligently with local leaders to utilize these funds in the most effective way possible to permanently house as many people as possible. ”
This is not the only funding Focus on Prevention has received. Sutter Health last week approved a $200,000 grant. And local business leaders in March donated $1.4 million.
The county expects to open a temporary access center for the homeless in a modular building near Superior Court in downtown Modesto in August. Imperial said the center will start with teams of volunteers and staff from nonprofits and county agencies that will go out into the community and work with the homeless and connect them to services.
He said at a later date, the center will be staffed by a housing assessment team. Imperial said $200,000 from Sutter Health will pay to staff the team.
Focus on Prevention has identified two long-term projects: opening a permanent, full-service access center in conjunction with what is called a low-barrier shelter. Unlike traditional ones, low-barrier shelters take in couples and pets. The access center would work with the shelter’s clients and other homeless people.
Kevin Valine: 209-578-2316