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State has $7.2 million to tackle homelessness in Stanislaus County

A homeless man bundled up against the cold carries food to his campsite on Monday morning December 3, 2018 at Beard Brook Park in Modesto, Calif.
A homeless man bundled up against the cold carries food to his campsite on Monday morning December 3, 2018 at Beard Brook Park in Modesto, Calif. jlee@modbee.com

California has $7.2 million in one-time money for those who help homeless people in Stanislaus County and its cities.

It is part of the $500 million the state authorized this summer through its Homeless Emergency Aid Program to help communities deal with the crisis.

California set aside $150 million for its 11 biggest cities and $350 million for what are called continuums of care. There are 43 of these in the state, and they are made up of local government, service providers and others who help the homeless.

The local continuum is called the Stanislaus Community System of Care, and the $7.2 million it will receive is based on its 2017 homeless count, which tallied 1,661 men, women and children. The $350 million is being divided among continuums based on their 2017 counts.

“This is a big deal; this is amazing,” said Francine DiCiano, president-CEO of United Way of Stanislaus County and co-chairwoman of the Stanislaus Community System of Care, about the $7.2 million.

The system of care has until Dec. 31 to apply for the funding, and DiCiano said she expects it will receive the money in spring.

She said the system of care’s leadership recently decided how the money will be spent, with $5 million set aside for capital improvements and $1 million for services for homeless youth or youth at risk of becoming homeless.

She said about $500,000 will be set aside for services (which can include street outreach and navigator programs) and about $500,000 for rental assistance and subsidies to help people get into or stay in housing.

DiCiano said 5 percent of the $7.2 million is required to go toward administrative costs.

The capital improvements can include shelters, transitional housing, permanent supportive housing as well as improvements to existing facilities, according to information from HomeBase, a consulting firm working with the Stanislaus Communty System of Care.

DiCiano said the system of care will use a competitive process to award funding to projects and service providers.

This comes as local governments consider declaring an emergency shelter crisis. The system of care’s annual homeless counts show that about half of the people counted sleep outdoors and not in shelters.

Counties and cities cannot receive money from a continuum unless they declare an emergency shelter crisis, said Russ Heimerich, deputy secretary of communications for California’s Business, Consumer Services and Housing Agency. The agency includes the California Homeless Coordinating and Financing Council, which is administering the Homeless Emergency Aid Program.

And there can be some restrictions in how HEAP money is spent in cities and counties that don’t declare a shelter crisis, according to guidance from the state.

Heimerich said declaring a crisis does not obligate a local government to build a shelter, just that it use any HEAP money it receives to help homeless people.

Turlock City Manager Bob Lawton said that if his council members declare a crisis, that will give them the opportunity to discuss whether the city should put together a project and compete for funding.

Stanislaus County’s Board of Supervisors and the city councils for Modesto and Turlock are expected to consider declaring a crisis next week. The city managers for the county’s seven other cities said their councils also will consider declarations this month.

Heimerich said the $500 million in one-time HEAP funding will serve as a bridge until funding becomes available through propositions 1 and 2, which California voters approved Nov. 6. The measures authorize $6 billion in bonds for such purposes as affordable housing for low-income residents, veterans and the mentally ill.

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