Edi Birsan, Concord Mayor

Concord mayor optimistic about city plan for homeless

Edi Birsan, Concord MayorCONCORD, CA (Feb. 15, 2024) — As you read this, there are people surviving on our streets. When you finish this, they will still be there.

However, the Concord City Council has accepted a Homeless Strategic Plan that will serve as a roadmap to begin implementing strategies we believe will make a real difference to our community. We will emphasize working with non-profits and outside organizations to avoid impacts on future General Funds and city staff.

I hope you have been following our progress on this initiative. It started more than a year ago when we identified homelessness as a major challenge. We know that we cannot sit by and hope that some other group or agency finds “the” solution.

We also recognize that while most of our current unsheltered population are former graduates of our schools and neighbors, there are others. We cannot forsake efforts out of fear that some others may come seeking pathways out of their disaster.

The council appointed an 11-member working group of people who represented a variety of experiences, including lived experience of being homeless, a nonprofit homeless services provider, a mental health professional, resident and business owner. Councilmember Laura Nakamura was chair, and I was proud to serve as vice chair.

Our working group met a dozen times over the last year, and my council colleagues and I met a few more. In addition, there were many small meetings between members and field trips to various facilities and gatherings of the unsheltered as could be handled by the limitations of the Brown Act.

At each meeting, we tackled different topics, heard from experts and listened to thoughtful public comment by community residents with perspectives and concerns as well as homeless folks directly.

Our plans include creating a mobile resource center, investing in rapid re-housing and developing various interim housing models, such as scattered site homes and tiny homes, centralized tiny homes and interim motel housing.

We cannot do all of these at once. We don’t have the funds or the staff capacity. But we do have $5.2 million remaining in one-time funds set aside to invest in solutions, much of which will be used as seed money to get things started as we work with non-profits in the effort to get grants for ongoing operations.

I am proud that we’ve arrived at this point; now is when the real work begins. Our team will transition to finalizing the operational and logistical details of strategy implementation, beginning with the mobile resource center and interim small motel housing.

I strongly urge that we push forward quickly on interim targeted transition housing and site support for non-profits willing to house. Lastly, we need to expedite the idea of taking the working poor homeless families and providing rent support and housing placement.

We are working on the paths out of homelessness, starting with those who want to be helped and moving to those who can be helped within our capacity.

Send comments and questions to EdiBirsan@gmail.com.