This story is part 3 of our series on homelessness.
Homelessness knows no boundaries, and Concord and its neighboring communities recognize no entity can act alone to address the issue.
Regular dialogues to share ideas complement individual efforts as officials try to stay ahead of problems.
Concord draws a great number of this migratory population because the city has the most services. Going forward, one of Mayor Tim McGallian’s objectives is to make clear to those at the county, state and federal levels that Concord can’t be the lone stakeholder shouldering this burden.
“We have to build out services regionally,” he said, pointing to conversations about adding a shelter in Antioch.
Walnut Creek city manager Dan Buckshi echoed this viewpoint. He sees the additional East County shelter as relieving the pressure in Central County as homeless move from one area to another.
Trying new approaches
McGallian cited various funding streams that the city will continue to draw from to address homeless issues, knowing it has a bearing on achieving priorities in areas such as development.
He pointed to Community Development Block Grants, with $100,000 deployed to community service organizations, like the Monument Crisis Center, to help serve the homeless population. Funds from the Pleasant Hill-Concord Health Care District are another source the city can push into services such as improving the effectiveness of the CORE (Coordinated Outreach, Referral, Engagement) teams.
An additional area of interest is expanding not only beds but storage in shelter facilities. McGallian noted one of the reasons the homeless are resistant to leaving the streets to tap the available resources is there is no place to put their stuff.
“We are trying all we can to get them off the streets and get them to accept the services that are being provided,” said McGallian.
“The services are out there, but we have to get people to take them,” he added. “So right now, we are trying to deploy the resources to right places.”
Buckshi says a multifaceted, proactive approach is making a difference in Walnut Creek. Steps include developers bringing hundreds of low-income units online, like the St. Paul Commons that serves those on the brink of homeless or already there; St. John Vianney Church providing safe parking zones to those with vehicles and funding for the Trinity Center; and two dedicated, specially trained police officers who are forging relationships with the homeless as part of HOT (Homeless Outreach Team).
Along with the joint effort with Concord to fund a CORE team, Walnut Creek is developing a mutual aid program with neighboring Pleasant Hill and Martinez to take on cases that don’t require 911. When one community’s team is out on a call and not available to help a homeless person with mental health issues, personnel from another city provide support.
Homeless drawn to Martinez
As the county seat, Martinez is home to the regional hospital center and county welfare offices. Those services make the community attractive to the homeless population, with an increasing visibility along Martinez’s waterfront park area, public spaces around the city, and on county property adjacent to municipal land.
To that end, a portion of the $3.2 million generated by voter-approved Measure X, a one-half percent sales tax, is supporting local homeless efforts. This includes funding a member of the Martinez Police Department dedicated to directly working with the homeless to get them services, as well as the county’s CORE team.
Martinez Mayor Rob Schroeder also lauded the Bay Church’s mobile shower unit. In recent months, it has been in the overflow lot across from the Amtrak station to provide a chance to wash up and get clean clothes.
He said the city is going to look for temporary safe places for those living in cars or RVs as the occupants seek and obtain permanent housing.
Capt. Greg Kogler of the Pleasant Hill Police Department shares sentiments expressed by his fellow officials, noting it will take varied resources, shared strategies and a multi-dimensional team approach to address the steadily changing needs of this population.
“Our job is to make sure we are making the most efficient use of the resources, and we are bringing them to the people who need them,” said Kogler.
“This is not an enforcement issue,” he added. “We want to take a firm and fair approach with this population, and we are working with our partners who have the resources.”