Humboldt County will be receiving millions of dollars to help provide more homeless housing and services to the area, North Coast state Sen. Mike McGuire announced this week.
In total, the county will receive more than $3.5 million in funding for homeless housing and services and the county’s Department of Health and Human Services expect it to arrive around the beginning of 2019.
“They really worked hard to push this money out in a hurry,” said DHHS senior program manager Sally Hewitt. “California is in a desperate place.”
Humboldt County certainly is affected by the issue and the board of supervisors declared a shelter crisis in February, after being asked to do so for quite some time by local advocates and activists.
Hewitt said the county agency would be the administrator of the fund and requests for proposals to use the funding which are about to be sent out.
“A lot of folks in the community would like to use this to support housing,” she said, but noted that the money must be spent and the projects must be completed in a very short time frame, which could be less time than is needed for planning and building new structures. “… (The funding) allows for anything you can imagine. Camping spaces, parking spaces, emergency shelters, almost anything that a program could come up with.”
One local project that might be eligible to use is the plan to create a low-income senior housing complex planned for Myrtle Avenue and Seventh Street.
She said that one of the stipulations is that 5 percent of funding received through the Homeless Emergency Aid Program, or HEAP, which accounts for $2.5 million of total the county will receive, must be used on projects that benefit homeless youth.
“HEAP is really designed to address the emergency that homelessness is,” Hewitt said.
She said there are roughly 1,000 homeless youth in kindergarten through 12th grade in Humboldt County. She added that Humboldt County might go well beyond the 5 percent stipulation.
More than $1 million in funding is coming through the No Place Like Home Initiative. Hewitt said that funding is guaranteed.
Proposition 2 also addresses the No Place Like Home Program and would allow for up to $2 billion to be dispersed across the state for building more housing for those with mental illness.
McGuire’s office did not respond to repeated requests for clarification on how this would affect allocations to Humboldt County before the publishing deadline Thursday.
“While these resources are significant, we know it’s going to take time and additional funding partnerships to help people and communities invest in long-term solutions to homelessness;” McGuire said in a news release. “Whether it’s downtown LA on Skid Row, San Rafael, Ukiah or Eureka, cities and counties lack the funding to implement the programs thousands of Californians desperately need.”
But time is not part of the grant funding provided, Hewitt said, which can limit the scope of projects.
One idea she said that might work is parking lots where people can park their vehicles overnight without fear of being towed. While she said she was not originally a proponent of the idea, she said she knows it worked well in Santa Barbara. She said proposals have been suggested in several local cities.
“(Santa Barbara has) it well managed,” she said. “The Santa Barbara program requires people to come in and register and prove they own the vehicle. … Arcata, in particular, has been talking about a lot more people parking in the street so they are actively looking at some way to do this in Arcata.”
Ruth Schneider can be reached at 707-441-0520.