CONTRA COSTA COUNTY, CA (June 16, 2022) — Despite hundreds of additional shelter beds, Contra Costa County has nearly 800 more unhoused residents than in 2019 – an increase of about 30% over three years, according to a county survey.
Contra Costa Health Services (CCHS) released the findings last month from the point-in-time survey, a biennial requirement of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which provides housing funding to the county.
“The county’s 2022 point-in-time count estimates that nearly 3,100 people are staying in shelter beds or living outdoors on an average night in Contra Costa, compared to 2,295 in 2019,” said Brittany Goldman, a spokesperson for Contra Costa Health Services.
The survey is conducted every two years, but the county skipped it in 2021 due to the pandemic. County officials attribute the three-year rise in homelessness to “collateral impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic in the community.”
Help from state and Measure X
The spike comes despite significant countywide housing efforts. Goldman said that since 2019, Contra Costa Health Services and community partners have increased shelter beds across the county by 30%.
“That includes the 172-room Delta Landing interim housing center in Pittsburg, one of the first projects completed through the state’s Homekey program,” she noted.
California’s 2021 Homekey program provided $600 million to support housing and was an expansion of Project Roomkey, the 2020 state funding bill to provide temporary rooms for the homeless at the height of the pandemic.
Local leaders have made homelessness a central focus with efforts to provide shelter, funding and support, including mental health services. To bring more affordable housing to Contra Costa, the Board of Supervisors established the Local Housing Trust Fund with $10 million from Measure X, the countywide sales tax that began in 2021. Measure X funds will contribute $12 million annually to support acquisition, construction, preservation and rehabilitation of affordable housing.
“Contra Costa is using every available resource to address the need for both interim and permanent housing. But the housing crisis has only gotten worse during the pandemic, both here and across the state,” said Karen Mitchoff, chair of the Board of Supervisors. “We do not need a survey to know that more county residents are living on our streets.”
New programs in Concord
According to Mayor Dominic Aliano, Concord has taken numerous measures to address and support the unhoused population.
“Homelessness is one of the most serious issues facing our region,” Aliano said. “The city of Concord continues to prioritize services to our unsheltered residents, which includes direct outreach and concerted efforts to help them get off the streets.
“This spring,” he added, “the council determined the need for a strategic plan to address homelessness. The work will be funded in part by the $2.4 million of one-time funds we set aside for this purpose.”
Other steps the city has taken include establishing a full-time, three-person county CORE (Coordinated Outreach, Referral & Engagement) team to work and interact with unsheltered residents, referring them to supportive services as appropriate and available.
The city also funded an additional housing division staff position to help the council and community define homeless service goals, to facilitate relationships among the many non-profit groups providing services within the unsheltered community, and to identify funding opportunities for homeless services and programs.
Goldman says the county will share more information from the point-in-time survey at a later date. “CCHS continues to review demographic and geographic information gathered through the 2022 survey.”
Karen Jenkins is pleased to be a correspondent with the Concord Clayton Pioneer News. She has worked as a community journalist on and off for three decades at publications including the Contra Costa Sun in Lamorinda; the Antioch Daily Ledger; the Avon-Beaver Creek Times in Colorado; Roll Call in Washington, D.C. and the Daily Nexus at UC-Santa Barbara. She is also the student advisor for The Sentinel, the student newspaper at Northgate High School in Walnut Creek. She may be reached at Karenjenkins241@gmail.com.