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Board of Supervisors backs goals for reducing homelessness across Riverside County

The Board of Supervisors voted unanimously today to align policies and practices with a set of priorities for reducing homelessness in Riverside County over the next five years.

The Housing & Workforce Solutions Agency's comprehensive Homeless Action Plan establishes goals aimed at moving people out of chronically homeless conditions and helping them transition to stable living environments, adopting elements of the California Interagency Council's Ending Homelessness Action Plan.  

Agency spokesman Greg Rodriguez said the plan also seeks to incorporate components of the California State Association of Counties' AT HOME collaborative, based on pillars of "accountability, transparency, housing outreach, mitigation and economic opportunity."

“What this does is really shows a coordinated, concrete, goal oriented metric driven approach to this. And what it does is it really lays out the whole system of care," Rodriguez said.

He said one of the plan's top goals is creating 21,000 affordable housing units to "fill gaps" and serve the county's "extremely low-income population" at risk of becoming homeless.  

Other objectives are expanding the stock of interim, bridge or transitional housing; preserving or expanding rental assistance programs; and relying on a "supportive housing response system in Riverside County to make it possible to end homelessness by reaching functional zero."  

Over the next five years, the action plan seeks a 75% reduction in the time people spend on the streets or in shelters, using "geographically distributed" crisis housing beds and other means.

Rodriguez said increasing mental health services is also a top priority.

“We're looking at establishing wellness villages," he explained. "24 hour, seven day a week, sobering center, walk in facility, and then it has inpatient outpatient treatment, obviously referral to substance use treatment off site if necessary.”

These are all services that local non-profit, Bridges2Hope, believes should be expanded. Since mid-April, they’ve been able to house 8 individuals.

However, they say more needs to be done.

“We have a lot of organizations that work really well. I think the biggest problem is they're underfunded are understaffed. There's not enough people to process each and every one of the homeless people that that needs it. And it requires a village," said President Shaun Howe.

Bridges2Hope is dedicated to helping empower the homeless community.

By working with these individuals every day, they understand what’s needed most.

“One of the biggest issues out here is not having help with their mental health. They're not going to go through traditional doctors and go and make all the appointments, if they could do all that they you know, they wouldn't need all the services," Howe explained to News Channel 3.

Every Tuesday, the nonprofit provides resources to those in need.

But even with outreach, they say additional access centers would make a big difference.

“One of the difficult things we see out here is there's no access center," said Peggy Grabow Vice President of Bridges2Hope. "If we had an Access Center, right here in the center of the desert and make it a lot easier to get the services aligned for these people.”

Only one member of the public offered comments on the county's plan during Tuesday's meeting-- Roy Bleckert of Moreno Valley.

"The reason we have homelessness is people can't afford homes, and that's because of stupid government policies,'' he told the board. "You're perpetrating the garbage that (Gov.) Gavin Newsom is trying to shove down our throats. This is not a resource problem. You get the rules and regulations out of the way and get more people employed, and you would not have a crisis."  

"This is an immense effort based on the entire continuum of care,'' Housing & Workforce Solutions Director Heidi Marshall told the board.   

She said that some previously homeless individuals were consulted in drafting the action plan.

Despite tens of millions of dollars allocated to homeless programs in recent years, California continues to have the largest homeless population in the country, with almost 200,000 people statewide dispossessed in 2022, according to figures released by the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development in December.   

Fully one-third of the nation's homeless are in California, where six of the top 10 cities with the greatest number of itinerants are located, HUD's Annual Homelessness Assessment Report said.

Riverside County's 2022 homeless census confirmed 3,316 people were chronically unsheltered, a 15% increase from two years earlier. Results from the 2023 point-in-time survey are slated to be released next week.

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Article Topic Follows: Homeless

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Samantha Lomibao

Samantha joined KESQ News Channel 3 in May 2021. Learn more about Samantha here here.

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