Mixed messages from ­Concord survey on homelessness

CONCORD, CA (Aug. 21, 2023) — The Concord Homeless Strategic Plan Working Group put out a general call for a survey on homelessness to residents (excluding those who were homeless residents).

Of the 712 responses:

  • 79% were homeowners.
  • 11% were renters.
  • 10% either did not respond or claimed to not know.

The top concerns were:

  • Trash/rubbish, 85%.
  • Public safety, 68%.
  • Homelessness creating and increasing crime, 57%.

The three biggest barriers to stable housing were seen as:

  • Mental health, 77%.
  • Substance use, 67%.
  • Refusal to access shelter, 45%.

The most needed services were:

  • Help locating/accessing mental health services, 61%.
  • Help locating/substance use services, 49%.
  • Affordable housing with supportive services onsite, 46%.
  • Trash removal, 40%.
  • Job training, 32%.

When you look at the responses from the 31 unhoused folks who took the survey (done in the field directly), there is a significant difference.

In terms of most needed services, they had:

  • Housing with affordable rent, 75%.
  • Assistance paying utilities, 62%.
  • Mental health services, 62%.
  • Emergency shelter, 50%.
  • Housing with supportive services, 50%.

In the area of concerns, they listed as the services most needed and not received:

  • Housing with affordable rent, 62%.
  • Legal camping/parking area, 50%.
  • Assistance with housing deposits, 50%.

Biggest concerns

What stands out is that when it comes to biggest concerns, the residents do not focus on housing or even care for the homeless but rather their biggest concerns are for their visuals and danger to themselves.

When considering approaches to the problems, we see a little more focus on housing in some areas but still some wide gaps in emphasis – with the unsheltered going directly into housing of any sort as their highest unmet need.

Mental health services are common ground. How to achieve the application of those services is the problem in that they cannot be forced and the 5150 “danger to yourself and others” has been ineffective.

Unfortunately, we could not get more of a response from the homeless group or a higher percentage of renters, as both skew the responses demographically. I would be most interested in what you all gather from these responses. Write to me at EdiBirsan@gmail.com or Edi Birsan, 950 Alla Ave., Concord, CA 945 18. Or call 510-812-8180.

Edi Birsan is a member of the Concord City Council. However, opinions expressed in this column are his alone and do not reflect those of the city.