Concord looks to mobile unit, county partnership to address homelessness

Concord Mayor Laura Hoffmeister addresses consultants regarding the Homeless Strategic Plan during the Nov. 7 City Council meeting. (David Scholz photo)

CONCORD, CA (Dec. 13, 2023) — Going to where the homeless are to provide services critical for starting the process of getting them off the streets was key to the City Council’s lengthy Nov. 7 discussion about goals put forth by a Homeless Strategic Plan working group.

The group, comprised of council representatives, community members, city staff, local nonprofits and Sacramento-based Thurmond Consulting LLC, will now hone a concrete proposal to bring to the council on Jan. 23 for formal action.

  • The general goals endorsed include:
  • Increasing homelessness prevention services.
  • Creating a safe place for the unhoused to dwell.
  • Increasing coordination of emergency response.
  • Creating immediately accessible temporary housing.
  • Strengthening the support system in partnership with government and non-government organizations.

The council gave the group the green light to continue to sharpen the proposed strategies, which include a decentralized resource center and interim housing. The latter is divided into rapid housing, scattered site interim housing, centralized interim tiny homes and scattered site interim tiny homes.

A mobile outreach unit, the centerpiece of the decentralized strategy, received broad support as a first step. A partnership with Contra Costa County, which is working jointly with nonprofits in different communities, is also part of Concord’s proposed game plan.

“The collaboration with the county will really be key,” said Isaiah Rich-Wimmer of Thurmond.

Councilmember Laura Nakamura, who with Vice Mayor Edi Birsan is actively involved in the working group, echoed Wimmer’s thoughts. “It’s a little bit of a multi-pronged approach.”

David Litty appeals to the Concord City Council to adopt “a full-step continuum approach” to helping the homeless. (David Scholz photo)

But for all the worthwhile ideas being considered, Concord Mayor Laura Hoffmeister cut to the chase with consultants with what worries her as the city seeks “the most bang for its buck.”

“You did not look at the Santa Clara or San Jose and San Mateo County dashboards to see what strategies they have used and how successful they have been or not successful in terms of what their outcomes have been,” Hoffmeister said of “not going down the rabbit hole” for answers that could be futile.

Looking ahead to the consultants’ return visit in January, Councilmember Dominic Aliano advised them to be prepared with answers to the mayor’s questions and “to provide some data if you can.”

A $5.2 million ceiling exists to pay for the final plan, and Aliano made it clear he was not willing to dip into the General Fund for anything more.

On the issue of cost, Eric Rehn, part of the working group, spoke from his experience as a commercial real estate broker. He strongly encouraged looking at the San Diego County building partnership that brought together the same collection of stakeholders that Concord officials say will be necessary.

“We can pretty much copy it and tweak it and save probably over 100 hours of staff time in terms of developing it. It is tied into all of the goals that we have and reducing the cost of the program,” he said.

Loaves and Fishes of Contra Costa, which has delivered 450 meals since starting its mobile unit in January, is among those willing to be part of future plans.

“This really aligns well with the Homeless Strategic Plan mobile resource center that you guys are proposing,” said Janette Kennedy, executive director of Development and External Relations. “We know how to do this, and we just want to let you know we are here to help.”

David Scholz
David Scholz

David Scholz is back in journalism as a freelance writer and photographer after nearly two decades in education. Prior to moving into teaching in 2000, he worked as a full-time journalist since 1988 for rural community and small daily newspapers in Central Ohio and Northern Nevada, and later in California with The Business Journal in Fresno and dailies in the Bay Area, including The Oakland Tribune and The San Francisco Chronicle. More recently Scholz also worked in an editing, writing, and page layout role with the Rossmoor News.