Health, housing and ­homeless system of care

We see homelessness every day in our community, and it’s not unique to Contra Costa County.

We are facing this issue nationwide, and it is one of the most complex social challenges our generation will work to address.

Contrary to what many people assume, our homeless are not transients coming into the county from elsewhere. During 2017, 6,442 individuals received homeless services in Contra Costa County, and more than 79 percent of them lost their housing in our county.

The majority of homeless individuals in Contra Costa grew up here or lost their housing here. This is home to them.
The Health Housing and Homeless (H3) division provides homeless services within the county Health Services. The county formed H3 in 2017, and its mission is to ensure an integrated system of care from prevention through intervention for homeless adults, youth and families in our community.

Homelessness is such a large issue that government alone can’t solve it. It takes partnerships with cities, nonprofits, schools and many others to work toward solutions.

H3 has created easy points of entry to our system of care.

The Coordinated Outreach Referral, Engagement (CORE) team program brings resources and services directly to individuals who are living outside. Teams go into encampments and meet with homeless individuals and provide or transport them to services. Contact CORE by dialing 211 or texting Hope to 20121.

Nine CORE teams currently operate in Contra Costa. Three teams are countywide, with one operating at night. Another three teams are partnerships between H3 and cities. These teams focus on the cities that fund them – Martinez/Pleasant Hill, Concord/Walnut Creek and San Pablo/Richmond.

In addition, H3 and the county Public Works Department partnered for a CORE team that focuses on encampments along the canals. This team’s cleanups have diverted more than 106,000 pounds of trash from our waterways.

New this year, BART partnered for a CORE team to primarily focus on the homeless in and around BART stations.
Another way to connect to services is through the Care Centers, which are resource hubs for homeless individuals. These centers include showers, case management, health services and housing searches. There are three Care Centers in Central County, including two at nonprofit locations – Monument Crisis Center and Trinity Center.

These are just a few examples of how the county, cities and nonprofits work together to assist residents experiencing homelessness. Our system of care provides far more than I can fit in one article. Next month, I will share more about the work around preventing homelessness as well as our expanding services in addressing homelessness in our county.

Karen Mitchoff is Contra Costa County District IV supervisor. Email questions or comments to Mitchoff at