Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Joe Rodota Trail - Bob's Visit

Tents along the Joe Rodota Trail by Charles Bryan Jones
 Everyone was warm, friendly, trusting, forthcoming.  There were housed-people walking, biking on the trail.  I stopped all and asked their trail experience.  Not a complaint, except one man said it made him sad to see how our homeless residents had to live.

Two of the women are very bright, focused, making good decisions.  One talked about organizing a “city council” so there would be two or three to speak officially for the campers instead of a reporter talking to someone who may not be representative.

A repeated observation was that it felt good to be noticed, to be though of as more than the lower-than-human they take themselves to be.  A woman named Lisa said repeatedly that no one, particularly not CC, gave them credit for an ounce of sense, that they had multiple understandings that would solve routine and even more substantial vexatious problems.

They ask and expect nothing, no envy, gratitude for being allowed to live there (they think until April).  I didn’t encounter anyone who was getting SSI or any other kind of support.  One fellow who was physically and mentally damaged, but generally a nice guy, would like to get on SSI for help w/his disabilities, but he can’t deal with the paper work.

Is there anyone in Homeless Action! who’s good at that?  He’s Charles Jones, thin, missing teeth, gets very animated, about 20 yards west of the entrance at Goodwill.  Has an African American mate who keeps him on a constructive path.

They are the rending stories you hear whenever you have a good conversation with a homeless person. Raped by father after 7, left home at 11, mom came after me, so back home and in school off-and-on until 16 when I left for good.

Could never get along w/mother, wanted me to be like my perfect older sister.

Does anyone know about an older couple who come to the Goodwill entrance Fridays at 8:30 p.m. and feed everyone who comes to the table they put up?

Do you know the name of an MD who visits now and then?

I’m not saying no-one on the trail throws toxic stuff over the wall into Casa del Sol, but everyone I talked to seemed thoughtful and self-disciplined.  Adrienne was exactly right when she suggested the Sol folks go around the wall with some food and meet their neighbors.  Given the bridled hostility at her weird, dangerous, uncalled-for proposal, probably never going to happen.

I’ve since learned that neighbors of Doyle Park don’t think the homeless problem there is much of an issue (contrary to a hair-on-fire report I got from someone who seemed to be my friend, but obviously isn’t), but my neighborhood thread has a dozen or more angry, nasty posts daily, several who’ve given me a tongue lashing for offering truth to their “factual declarations” and one who called me a bully.  I guess they must be outliers.


Sunday, October 13, 2019

Quality of Life and Resident Stability for Homeless People

J. Scott Wagner
In September 2019, Dr. Joshua Bamberger gave the keynote speech at the Festival of Belonging in Santa Rosa California.  One of the things he said was that there is no evidence to prove that staying in a shelter is better than living on the street. 

Then, in October, a UCLA study seemed to say something similar.  The study said, “
While individuals who are sheltered report on average fewer health and mental health conditions, the data does not support finding that shelter is the cause of improved health. In fact, it is just as likely that people who are unsheltered for long periods of time are those who cannot access shelter for a variety of reasons. The findings do reinforce the importance of stable housing as a social determinant of health and as essential for ending homelessness, for people in both groups.

Scott Wagner’s response follows. 

Quality of Life and Resident Stability for Homeless People

In the UCLA study, two facts and an assumption are being juggled, and the connection between the three is held unrealistically to be impossible to ascertain causally: 

1) people who are a challenge to house never even get to shelters or housing, and have very bad health, especially women; 
2) people who are on the street who can be successfully sheltered or housed have unknown health; and 
3) the people in "safe housing" have much better health than the average homeless person. 

We are then asked to believe that, since the study authors understandably couldn't divvy up populations 1) and 2), that all the bad health outcomes of life on the street might only belong to 1), the people who can't get housing. So therefore, we can't say that shelter improves health, because population 2) might secretly be on the street but just as healthy as population 3) anyway. Maybe shelter has nothing to do with health. "There is no evidence."

Think about the stilted logic of that for a second. And then think about how dangerous it is to pass on anything like that lesson in the context of how we always try desperately to get people out of the weather however we can.

There is a TON of evidence that shelter, of any kind or quality, improves health. The very best and most important evidence is that people who are staying in any kind of a shelter are there voluntarily, precisely because they believe, typically fervently, that it improves their health. Anyone trying to save people on the street from death, abuse, and disease do not need any god damn study to clarify that. I just spent two weeks with two evicted low income people, struggling mightily because all three of us were deathly worried about the health implications of being outdoors. We are happy that we were able to avoid that via a dorm shelter for one, and an sober living environment for another.

It was counterproductive for Dr. Bamberger to denigrate "shelters" the way he did. The study itself says that homeless people "report worsening health conditions the longer they are homeless." Does that sound like "there is no evidence" that shelter improves health? The fact that emergency shelters are sometimes deeply flawed should not blind us to their value to health, comfort, service access, food, and a form of community. We must also stop the deep prejudice against "temporary", in a world where a day out of a freezing rain is a precious commodity, whether measured mentally or in terms of health. Just because the shelter experience is months instead of years does not make it valueless.

Shelters: Quality and Funding

And where is the vital discussion about how much of a difference quality and budget can make in a shelter? Maybe we shouldn't bother with quality concerns, since "there is no evidence" shelters do any good anyway---? How can we have drifted so far away from reality that neither this study nor Dr. Bamberger even talked about shelter quality as a key dimension of the story?

Dr. Joshua Bamberger
What people hear when they hear "there is no evidence" is that a shelter of any kind or quality is worthless or a waste of money, that it doesn't improve health, or it's no improvement over life on the street. That's not what "no evidence" means, but that's what we hear, and I believe that's what Dr. Bamberger deliberately conveyed as he tried to have us aim higher.  We should all repeat to ourselves when we hear this kind of thing that we know that voluntary shelter of any kind saves lives and health relative to the alternate. We should remember our friends struggling to get into and stay in those difficult places.

The study does what Dr. Bamberger did: "shelter" is damned with "there is no evidence" talk, while the vague "stable housing" or "permanent housing" (which we know is in reality a six month or one year lease, typically with poor case manager support and double-digit eviction rates) is held up as the clear, noble, only acceptable end. As if they two were night and day, evil and good. They are not. They are along the continuum of shelter, and their qualitative relationship is decidedly less clear-cut than implied. 


And where do services come into this picture? How realistic is it to speak of shelter or stable housing without a word about services, as they do here? How much confounding of data are we wading through as we ignore homeless people's capability and needs this way, ignore the fact that housing of any kind is fine for some without services, a nightmare for others without services, and an unknown morass of difficultly for most without targeted services? 

The study says, "People with the longest experiences of homelessness, most significant health concerns, and greatest vulnerabilities are not accessing or being served by emergency shelters." This is treated like a shocking secret that scientists are revealing for the first time.  But we already knew this very well.  We know there are dozens of reasons for shelter unsuitability, most notably that people are afraid of dorm shelters because they're somewhat dangerous, they're depersonalizing and stressful, and because many of the most "vulnerable" are dangers to others.

This limitation of shelters for various homeless people is an entirely separate, unrelated point to health concerns. Most of that limitation is not only perfectly understandable, it is often a very desirous limitation. Yet this limitation is being swirled in with the other confusing points about health outcomes so that the shelters' vital role in the housing ecosystem is completely overlooked.  Shelters don't serve who they're "supposed" to, the "most vulnerable"– and even if they did, "there is no evidence" that the many people who are DYING to get into the shelter are improving their health outcomes there over street life.  It's so hard to tell if emergency shelters help homeless resident's health that the careful scientists are stumped, stumped, stumped.

Come on!!

It's not a minor point that these points are addressed so poorly. We have to understand and promulgate the subtleties of these things, and stop getting swept into toxic Housing First generalizations. As I told Dr. Bamberger, there is a terrible manipulation of concepts and terminology. What are: shelter; housing; evidence; permanent; wraparound; vulnerability?  Denigrating emergency shelter feeds right into conservative and hardcore Housing First mindsets that we are morally obligated to not spend money on "shelter" because "there is no evidence" it does any good, and it's stealing money from permanent housing. Dr. Bamberger implied exactly what I hate hearing from some local leaders, that any form of shelter other than some high-gloss house-on-the-hill with wraparound whatever is a waste of time. 

Tiny Home Villages

There is a related danger for SAVS*  in all this thinking that I alerted Dr. Bamberger to. Let me ask this: do we seriously think what SAVS is doing will be considered anything other than "emergency shelter" or the "shelters" which Dr. Bamberger castigated so enthusiastically? We are just considered a twist on Sam Jones by almost everyone. "There is no evidence" that what we are trying to do will improve health outcomes.

Perhaps you heard Dr. Bamberger lump tiny homes in with "shelters" in his "there is no evidence" point. "Maybe it'll be better, who knows, we can try it" was the damning faint praise, as I recall. Not a word about case management quality, or self-management, or resident-centered approaches, or consolidated services, or the advantage of privacy, or community integration, or any useful distinction between shelter forms along the dimensions that we know determine life quality and resident stability. Yet these are characteristics that no doubt are part of the Lyons community he glossed quickly over as successful.
Tiny House in Seattle, similar to those planned by SAVS

I tried in a few minutes to sketch for Dr. Bamberger that a home is something you can have partially, as in containing many of the deli of characteristics of an optimally healthy, permanent home and community – that a shitty emergency shelter provides say 40%, if you will, for those who can stand being in it. That we are trying to provide a 75-80% solution. That both shelter types are noble and vital attempts to supplant the police and criminal abuse, lack of shelter, and often toxic community bonds of the street. That a 75% solution might give us amazing outcomes, and can be refined through time. That 75% solutions may end up being all that are realistically doable in the coming decade or two, since providing a 75% solution is a tenth or a twentieth or thirtieth of the cost of the 100% solution. 

The worst of it for me: Dr. Bamberger's unspoken assumption that there is 1) some set amount of money for homes and emergency shelters and services combined, and 2) it's tragically so very limited, and so 3) we must be moral and choose between these programs, to allocate the precious available capital to "evidence-based" outcomes (which everyone mouths together is: "permanent supportive housing with wraparound services.")

This is a terrible set of assumptions, and it is a kindler and gentler version of an exact set of assumptions that I dealt with month after month in conversations with a local leader. In reality, permanent housing and related services and emergency housing and its related services must be considered two separate budget items, as different in purpose and technique as physical and mental health are. The two must each be funded adequately based on need and ability, with only small regard to each other. There isn't a tradeoff between them. They're not even funded the same way! Permanent housing is mostly a long-term investment funded almost solely by bonds, while the other is funded through various year-by-year taxes and (hopefully) assessments. Pretending they require endless zero-sum choices between them is a game our enemies like to lure us into to keep our efforts sidelined.

Housing First

"Housing First" is accurate in the simple, pedestrian sense that the housing budget line item should be bigger than spending on emergency services; "Housing First" is dead wrong in the sense that, if you are trading away emergency services and shelter because you are prioritizing permanent housing over it, you are engaging in a cruel abuse that is no different than spending that money on computers or roads instead.

I think it's urgent to defend emergency shelters and any other form of shelter from "there is no evidence" talk, if for no other reason than to sketch this big picture for people accurately. We must remember that local homeless people are clamoring for all of it, because they know things that scientists apparently can't begin to grasp. Keep these problems and issues we have separate and clear from the overall need. Yes, we have problems with dorm shelters– but we need MORE local, hopefully smaller emergency shelters, dorm or not. We have so few that we can't segregate the populations commonsensically for safety and quality of life purposes. This is an example of where Housing First pretends we can mix high and low vulnerability willy-nilly, no matter the particulars of the "vulnerability." 

Elsewhere, Housing First pretends that we should spend massive amounts on high vulnerability and not even budget money for low vulnerability people, in an almost conscious attempt to ignore resident capability as a vital dimension of success. These twin abuses of vulnerability and capability upend the whole system, and will give SAVS lots of challenges in the years ahead.

I agree very much with most of the spirit of Dr. Bamberger's talk, but I am concerned at how we mistake the game we're playing, and we fall into the pitfalls of the Housing First morass. Let's be clear: we need more and better of it all – villages, shelters, downtown bathrooms, day centers, safe parking, organized tent encampments, and case management. There is no competition between these things, only a throbbing, blindingly large need across the whole spectrum. We need to strategize success at SAVS by wisely considering both capability and vulnerability of the formerly homeless residents.  And we need to emphasize that targeted services are the key to making progress for homeless people in the long-term. 

* SAVS (Sonoma Applied Village Services) is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization committed to creating safe villages where formerly unsheltered residents live with dignity and self-worth. SAVS, in partnership with housed individuals, neighbors, health care providers, volunteers, and local officials, facilitates a shared understanding of needs, perceptions, responsibility, and accountability in order to create these villages. SAVS leverages that understanding to provide basic shelter and security in a cooperative atmosphere to support village residents to attain their personal self-improvement goals.  SAVS also advocates for homeless rights as a whole and works with its sister organization, Homeless Action!, a Santa Rosa grass roots activist group.

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Homeless: In Wine Country

First Published in the Sonoma County Gazette
October 2019

by Ka Lane Raposa 
Malnourished, sleep deprived and operating in a constant state of hypervigilence. Every thought is filtered through a fight or flight survival mode that never shuts off. Every stranger walking towards you is a potential threat.

All the things you knew you'd never do are now the things you do each day to survive. Desperately wanting some place to be but having nowhere to go. Where do you find hope in a city that holds so much hostility, judgment and disdain for you? How do you walk with a modicum of dignity or self esteem when passersby train their contempt filled eyes upon you as if you were a stain on the fabric of their community? 
Imagine having to choose between your only hot meal of the day or taking a bus across town to the Social Security office to replace the card that was stolen from you while you were sleeping.
Strapped across your back in a duffle bag are the only possessions left of the life you once knew. Pieces of memories and history to be maliciously pawed through by an armed security guard at Social Security provided, of course, that he or she is charitable enough to allow the bag in the building at all. If not, you're faced with another hard choice: Do you stash the duffel bag in a bush and risk losing what little you have left in this world or do you blow off getting a new Social Security card even though you know you can't get a job without it?
 Then one of many hard truths sets in: It doesn't matter how nice the interview clothes are that you managed to scrounge up at Catholic Charities. Nor does it matter how fly that new haircut you got from the charity barbers down at Julliard Park last Saturday looks on you or how professional your resumé from the county's Job Links program appears to be. They cannot hide that razor sadness that hovers over you like a cloud and veils that deep set desperation in your eyes.
Imagine if you can: Local politicians exploiting your plight as a platform to get reelected only to turn their backs on you once they've secured their office. Or committees formed to secure government funding to create programs that have little to do with actually helping you and more to do with posturing for future political ambitions and exposure in the  press. Imagine naive though well intended activists who have never actually experienced what you're going through, have never even met you, let alone know your name or story, advocating on your behalf that which they think would be best for you. Speaking about you as if you were an invalid incapable of communicating your own needs. People in your community are always talking ABOUT you, AT you , THROUGH you, and TO you. But seldom do they take the time to talk WITH you...
Imagine laying your body down on a piece of someone else's earth and resting your head on a pillow of solid rock. Inside of you is an indescribable weariness draining the life from your soul. As you curl up in a sleeping bag so thin that you can feel the wind's tiny knife-like fingers slicing right through to your skin, you pray for the nightmare to end. Strewn about you are the pieces of the broken lives of the ones who have slept there before. Photographs, torn and faded. Shards of broken glass and old CDs. Crayons and children's toys. Syringes scattered among the mountains of trash and rotting food. Combined with the smell of feces and urine, it is enough to gag a maggot. No door to close and lock behind you. No walls to protect you from whatever dangers the night may bring. As you close your eyes and begin to fade off you find yourself awakened by the nudge of a Constable's truncheon as he tells you to pack your things and move on.
How well would you do living under these conditions? How sound would your decision making process be? How amiable would you be to charity organizations that consistently over-promise and under-deliver., leaving you to shoulder the blame for their ineffectiveness. 
Forget the Betty Crocker version you've been fed...

[photo description: A 3/4 view of Ka 'Lane Raposa's. He wears three ear rings, a goatee, and dark glasses. His face is serious.]

Sunday, September 29, 2019

Dr. Joshua Bamberger On Homelessness: "Autonomy is Critical for Health"

The major points from last night's talk by Dr. Joshua Bamberger, keynote for the Festival of Belonging:

1. We need massive Federal investment in low income housing. It hasn't been done right since the 1970s. Until then, we can only wait and deal with the 10% of the problem as we can.

2. Autonomy is critical for health. Enforcement actions are unhealthy for humans without homes.

3.  The main cause of the homeless crisis is the economic gap between rich and poor.

4.  Health concern about encampments is unfounded. They are a concern for those who live in camps but they are no danger for those who are housed. (Needles, Hep C, Typhoid? He debunked them all.)

5. Shelters are a very partial answer, similar to hospital emergency rooms.

6. There's no evidence that mandatory treatment improves outcomes for people with addiction or mental health problems.

7.  There’s an emergency in seniors who have had jobs and homes all their lives, who are now becoming homeless.

8. We need to invest in programs that keep homeless people alive and safe until we can get the Federal investment to build the houses we need.

Dr. Bamberger was recently appointed as Associate Director of UCSF's $30 million Benioff Homelessness and Housing Initiative.  As a primary care physician and Master of Public Health, Dr. Bamberger has been working with San Francisco's homeless population at the Downtown Clinic and SF Health Department for nearly 30 years.

Friday, September 27, 2019

Democratic Candidates On Homelessness and Housing

by Adrienne Lauby
This was the week that Julian Castro made local headlines by visiting an Oakland homeless camp.  I knew that Warren and Sanders have proposed major Federal funding increases for homelessness and housing, but Castro's visit got me wondering how important homelessness was as an issue for all the Democratic candidates.  

Below I talk about 12 of the 19 current candidates.

The two who surprised me the most was Marianne Willliamson for the depth and number of her policy plans and Joe Sestek, a former Navy Admiral for his progressive solutions.  Both, coincidentally (& like Bernie Sanders), have very good disability policies.

Cory Booker 

Booker signed on to letter urging the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Senate Appropriations Subcommittee leadership to support funding for the McKinney- Vento Homelessness Assistance program and $2.1 billion for Housing Choice Vouchers.

Peter Buttigieg  
He proposes to
launch a public trust that would purchase abandoned properties and provide them to eligible residents in pilot cities. Housing and homelessness is tackled by Buttigieg in several of his larger plans.  Past actions:  What Pete Buttigieg Has and Hasn’t Done About Homelessness in South Bend

Julian Castro 
'Housing is a human right'
: Castro visited a homeless encampment in Oakland in September. 
His housing plan includes trying to build 3 million affordable-housing units and putting in place "a refundable renter's tax credit.. . In my administration, we will end homelessness by 2028.”

Tulsi Gabbard
Has a statement on homelessness on her website. I love that she talks about the cost of the military. "Instead of wasting billions of dollars on regime-change wars, we can invest some of that Peace Dividend to end homelessness across America."  Past Actions:  Sidewalk bill targets homeless people. 

Kamala Harris 
Almost nothing on her website about homelessness or housing.  She issued a statement on Trump's latest attack on homeless Californian's. “The White House’s suggestion that it will enlist the help of law enforcement to address homelessness in the state is counterproductive and ignores the fact that long-term solutions are required to successfully reduce homelessness."  

Amy Klobuchar
Senator Klobuchar will make a major investment in homeless assistance grants that provide emergency and long term housing, and build on her work in the Senate increasing access to case management services like counseling and job training.

Beto O'Rourke
O'Rourke visited an L.A. homeless camp in September of this year where he said he wants to
invest $400 billion in housing and proposes the rich live next door to the poor..  There’s nothing on his website about homelessness or housing. 

Bernie Sanders 

Sanders visited housing and homeless service programs in Los Angeles in early August.  His website says he will invest $1.48 trillion over 10 years in the National Affordable Housing Trust Fund to build, rehabilitate, and preserve the 7.4 million quality, affordable and accessible housing units necessary to eliminate the affordable housing gap, which will remain affordable in perpetuity.  There's more. 

Joe Sestak
Sestak says
subsidized housing needs expanding, with long wait-lists for government-backed housing across the country. Says better funding for the Department of Housing and Urban Development and its anti-homelessness programs will boost the entire economy and create more jobs.  Has excellent plans related to disability. 

Elizabeth Warren 
This announcement
doesn't quote Warren talking about homelessness but she's paying attention to organizations that do talk about it. "Bicameral Legislation Would Produce More Than 3 Million New Housing Units, Reduce Rents by 10%, and Create 1.5 Million New Jobs with No Deficit Impact"

Her website says my bill makes historic federal investments to increase housing supply. It invests $500 billion over the next ten years to build, preserve, and rehab units that will be affordable to lower-income families.

Marianne Williamson
Part of
Williamson’s economic plan is to pay all American citizens ages 18 to 65 (or until they are eligible for their Social Security payment) $1,000 per month, no questions asked.  She also has excellent plans related to disability.

Andrew Yang 
Yang would implement the Freedom Dividend, a universal basic income of $1,000/month, $12,000 a year, for every American adult over the age of 18.

[Graphic: From Western Regional Advocacy Project (WRAP).  It is a cartoon of President Trump running a piece of heavy equipment with bulldozer wheels, a wrecking ball and a excavator which is holding the remains of a house. There's a golf club bag in the back.  The text reads, "Trump's Wall: At What Cost?  Trump shuts down government for his $5 billion wall, while HUD plans for reductions of 105,000 public housing units."]

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

By Adrienne Lauby
Sept. 11, 2019
Article 25:  Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.

There are five major ways to fulfill the demands of the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights quickly.

1. Sanctioned Encampments (tents)
2. Safe Parking (cars & R.V./Trailers)
3. Tiny Home Villages (bedrooms with communal sanitation and cooking areas)
4. Leave 'em alone - decriminalization  (wrap.org)
5. Major infusion of money from the Federal government.   The Feds cut funds to build low income housing during Ronald Reagan's Presidency by 50% and has never restored the budget, much less caught up with the missing years of housing production.

Building in elements of self-management, self-empowerment and community in homeless camps, villages and safe parking is crucial to their success.  

It's impossible to talk for long about homelessness without talking about low income housing and poverty.  Both of these are large topics, of course, but consider having some framing about them.  For instance, you can say, "Homelessness is about poverty.  You don't find rich people on the streets.  Donald Trump has had bankruptcies, divorces and other crisis events but, like most rich people, he has back up housing and resources that pick him up before he falls too far."

Don't be misled by the term "affordable housing"  This is basically workforce housing.  Unless it says specifically low-low-housing or no-income housing, it will not be affordable for most homeless people who, at best, are on a fixed income of approx. $1,000 a month.

Don't use the term "homeless"  Use homeless people, homeless folks, or homeless individuals.   Homeless people are individuals.  They are not their condition.

What happens to homeless people's property when they are arrested for being in the "wrong" place, or told to suddenly move on, taking only what they can carry?  This has become a growing legal issue since the U.S. is strong about the right of people to own property.

Officially, 42% of homeless people have a physical or mental disability.  The actual number is much higher.  We could talk about "disabled people living on the street" instead of "homeless people".

There are Tiny Home Villages that cost $200,000 a home and up.  While these are cheaper than market-rate housing, they are a limited solution.


1.  Homeless Talk
Homeless Action! and Santa Rosa Together talked to 500 Santa Rosa people in small groups to find out what they are thinking about homelessness.  Qualitative Research Report, Cecile Querubin lead author. 
This same site has an extensive local homeless resource guide.

2.  Homeless Census, Official numbers and statistics from the county's yearly survey.
http://sonomacounty.ca.gov/CDC/Homeless-Services/Homeless-Count/  (scroll down slightly for the pdf of each year's report)

3.  Portrait of Sonoma County
Another official report, this one produced by the Health Department in 2014.  Delicious statistics and comparisons about the difference in resources in the poorer communities vs the well off communities, and the consequences of these disparities.  Delicious and depressing.

4.  Decriminalization
Non-Solution Solutions to End Homelessness
This entire website is full of information.  It's located in S.F. but has close connections with grassroots homeless activist groups, especially on the west coast.

5. My favorite doctoral student.
Chris Herring
Great academic research on encampments

6.  Tipping Point Community
Interesting new group out of the bay area

1.  Ten Myths about Homelessness Debunked
9-1-19. Medium
One of the best articles I've seen on this topic.  Easy to read and Cory Clark did a great job pulling out the myths.

2.  10 Tiny House Villages for the Homeless Across the U.S.:  Case studies for a trending idea
A good overview.  There are more villages than this, (Seattle has ten all by itself) but this gives a good sense of the diversity in size, management and funding.

3.  Modesto tent city attracting interest from other cities dealing with homelessness
California Official City Tent City

4. Column:  He Died Sunday on a West L.A. Sidewalk.  He was Homeless. He is Part of an Epidemic
Good thinking about how homelessness should be considered a health epidemic.  L.A. on track for 1,000 deaths of homeless people in this year alone.

6.  Road Home Redux : They're fire-resistant and politically connected, but are 'wildfire cottages' the solution to the region's—heck, the state's—housing crisis?
Includes a lot of quotes from the author of this article.

7.  San Jose Tiny Home Village

8.  101 Notes on the LA Tenants Union
Commune Magazine
Brilliant re-framing of the housing/homelessness problem

9.   Rise of Senior homelessness.  It's true in Sonoma County too.  More and more Californians are old, sick and on the streets. Here’s how we can fight senior homelessness.


1.  Santa Rosa
City Ordinances
Kevin Polk, who is a guru for Tiny House building, says Santa Rosa now has the best ordinances In the state for helping displaced people get back on their feet using smaller temporary housing.

Fed Court Injunction for Santa Rosa Homeless Relief
    a.Order for Preliminary Injunction (scroll past the calendar)
    b.  Interview with Adrienne Lauby and Victoria Yanez

Santa Rosa gives final approval to 54-unit apartment complex for homeless and low-income residents

Gold Coin Motel set to be Homeless Housing

2.  Rohnert Park
Rohnert Park to spend up to $450,000 more on new homeless initiatives

3.  Chico
A plan to address homelessness in Chico | Guest commentary
By a City Council member

4.  San Francisco
S.F. Looking to follow Seattle's Lead
S.F. Chronicle

5.  L.A.
Los Angeles restores limits on homeless living in vehicles

6.  State of California

Darrell Steinberg's New Initiative
a.  Cities Must Provide Shelter for Homeless People
b.  Criticism:
California must not repeat old mistakes as it seeks new ways to end homelessness

Last year the State of California gave $500 million to cities and counties for emergency homeless efforts (HEAP).  (My group got its first big grant of $450 thousand to build a tiny home village and R.V. park.).  Oakland spent all their share on tiny home villages and safe parking.  Finding out what happened with all that money would be a research project in itself.  Next year the state is giving less.  This year it will be $650 million (HHAPP) but it's more restricted and less money for Sonoma County by about $3 million bucks. 

Local guy, beautiful stuff.  May get an official permit for housing structures next year.

SAVS Tiny Home Villages
Local.   I'm part of this group.  We are setting up a Tiny Home Village and an R.V. Parking Lot.  Stay tuned.

The Low Income Housing Institute builds typical affordable housing but it also has built and manages over ten tiny home villages.

Thursday, August 29, 2019

2020 State Funding for Addressing the Homeless Crisis

Upcoming state funding for Homeless Housing, Assistance, and Prevention Program Program (HHAPP).  
First, it’s less money over a longer period of time ($7 million for April 1, 2020 to December 3, 2025).  
Second, it’s limited in its allowed uses, divided between Continuum of Care and County ($3-4 million each), and has some requirements.

Estimates of $ for Sonoma County:

Santa Rosa, Petaluma/Sonoma County

For Continuum of Care:  $3,987,194.20
For Sonoma County:  $4,027,593.20
Total: $8,014,707.40

Description of HHAPP

Assembly Bill 101, the Housing Development and Financing trailer bill, which is part of the 2019-2020 State Budget package, has established the Homeless Housing, Assistance, and Prevention Program (HHAPP). This one-time investment of $650 million, administered by the Homeless Coordinating and Financing Council (HCFC) within the California Business, Consumer Services and Housing Agency, will provide jurisdictions with one-time grant funds to support regional coordination and expand or develop local capacity to address homelessness challenges informed by a best-practices framework focused on moving homeless individuals and families into permanent housing and supporting the efforts of those individuals and families to maintain their permanent housing. An explanation of the program parameters is below.

Eligible Applicants & Application Process 
HHAPP applicants are limited to “jurisdictions”—a city, county, or Continuum of Care (CoC). To be eligible, an applicant shall provide: 
• How the jurisdiction has coordinated with other jurisdictions to identify their share of the regional need to address homelessness, and how the requested funds will help meet the jurisdiction’s share of that need; 
• Identification of all funds currently being used to provide housing and homeless services for homeless populations in the jurisdiction;
• An assessment of existing programs to address homelessness and an identification of gaps in housing and services for the homeless populations in the jurisdiction;
• Identiication of how funds requested in the application will complement pre-existing funds, close gaps, and serve the local homeless populations;
• Measurable goals, including individuals served and percentage of individuals successfully placed in permanent housing; and,
• Evidence of connection the with local CoC’s Coordinated Entry System. 
Jurisdictions must also agree to participate in a statewide Homeless Management Information System (HMIS). 
HHAPP applications are due on or before February 15, 2020, and awards determinations will be made no later than April 1, 2020. If funding remains, a second-round of awards may be made.

Available Funding 
HHAPP is granting a total of $650 million. Funding shall be made available based on a regional proportionate share of the total homeless population, based on the 2019 Homeless PointIn-Time Count. The four funding categories are as follows:
 • $190 million available to CoCs;
 • $275 million available to the 13 big cities;
 • $175 million available to counties; and
 • $10 million scheduled for later use. 

Note that the formula for HEAP included giving eight counties with 2017 PIT counts between 2500 and 3000 a base floor of $10 million, plus an amount for their share of the statewide PIT for that year.  HHAP eliminates that floor for those counties in favor of a straight percentage based on their shoe of 2019 PIT counts.  The legislation also states that applicants can include CoCs, counties, and large cities.  While if encourages regionalization, and collaboration,  it is still unclear if Home Sonoma Leadership Council and the County of Sonoma can each apply.

Allowable Uses 
HHAPP awards are for one-time uses to address homelessness using 8 evidence-based solutions: rental assistance, rapid rehousing, operating subsidies to supportive housing units, emergency shelters, and navigation centers; incentives to landlords, such as security deposits and holding feeds; systems support to create regional partnerships and maintain a homeless services and housing delivery system; hotel and motel conversions; prevention and shelter diversion to permanent housing; and new navigation centers and emergency shelters based on demonstrated need. 
Additional stipulations include:
 • A maximum 5% use of funds to meet federal requirements for housing funding, such as developing a strategic homelessness plan or infrastructure to support coordinated entry and the HMIS;
 • A maximum 7% use of funds to cover administrative expenses incurred by the city, county or CoC; and,
 • A minimum spending limit requiring at least 8% use of funds to establish or expand services meeting the needs of homeless youth populations. 

Reporting Requirements & Expenditure Timeline 
HCFC may monitor activities to ensure compliance and request repayment of funds for failure to comply with requirements. HHAPP recipients must submit annual progress reports and a final report, no later than January 1, 2026, regarding the expenditure of funds under the program.

• By May 31, 2023, cities and CoCs must contractually obligate at least 50% of their program funds; counties must contractually obligate 100% of their program funds. 
• For counties, any funds not contractually obligated by May 31, 2023, shall be reverted to the CoC that serves the county. 
• For cities and CoCs, any funds not expended by December 31, 2023, shall be returned to the HCFC. 
• Any funds not expended by June 30, 2025, must be reverted to the General Fund.

Homeless Data Integration System Project
Shortly after the Council was transferred from HCD to BCSH in July 2018, Council Chair Secretary Podesta directed HCFC staff to explore options for developing a California Homeless Data Integration System (CDIS), including a state-level Homeless Management Information System (HMIS). Phase I would include developing a state-level data warehouse that could import and integrate client-level data from all of California’s existing local HMIS and provide an option for CoCs to participate in a state HMIS if they choose to do so. The state HMIS would comply with HUD standards to facilitate federal reporting. 
Additionally, the proposed system would feature data analytics reporting tools, which would be available to both the state and CoCs. This would give the CoCs additional information to assist in policy setting and prioritizing services provided to homeless and at-risk individuals and families. In addition, it would allow the state to better understand the scope and characteristics of homelessness throughout California. Phase II would include the development of an integrated platform that could import and link other client-level data from various state and local homeless programs, which would serve as a powerful, data driven tool used to inform policy and resourcing decisions. The Council would be in a position to provide data-driven advice on formulating sound policy and make recommendations on the most effective and efficient use of funds. 

Exploring Development of a California Homeless Data Integration System 

Background Information 
At the July 11, 2018 Homeless Coordinating and Financing Council (Council) meeting, Chris Pitcher, an expert in HMIS and a consultant for the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), made a presentation to the Council regarding a state-level homeless data integration system. Mr. Pitcher’s assessment included three salient observations: (1) California has provided an unprecedented amount of funding toward the statewide homeless crisis; (2) California lacks the appropriate data infrastructure to measure the impact and effectiveness of various homelessness programs; and (3) without statewide data, California is trying to solve a problem that it does not have the data to fully understand. The Council’s Chair, Secretary Alexis Podesta, directed staff to explore options for developing a California Homeless Data Integration System (CHDIS), including a state-level Homeless Management Information System (HMIS). 

Since July 2018, HCFC staff, in collaboration with CDT and the HUD consultant, have:
• Held vendor demonstrations with vendors currently providing HMIS solutions to CoCs in California to gain a better understanding of the functions and capabilities of current HMIS operating in the state. HCFC also held demonstrations with other IT vendors that were interested in discussing capabilities of their IT solutions and how they might support the goals of a potential HDIS.
• Surveyed CoCs to learn more about how local jurisdictions administer their HMIS and how best practices and lessons learned at the local level could inform the state in developing a state HDIS. Extended interviews and site visits were conducted with current HMIS users in seven CoCs around the state to determine necessary requirements to build into a potential system and to consider options for improving on current HMIS software options. 
• Collaborated with the California Department of Technology (CDT) to identify challenges and opportunities related to a CHDIS project. 
• Submitted Stage I and Stage II Business Analysis documents required by CDT as part of the state IT project development process. 
• Published a Request for Information (RFI) that invited vendors to provide their proposed solutions to meet the goals of a CHDIS, as well as a cost estimate for their solution. Thirteen responses to the RFI were received on or before November 9, 2018, when the responses were due. 

As currently envisioned, the CHDIS would consist of two phases: 
• Phase I would include developing a state-level data warehouse that could import and integrate client-level data from all of California’s existing local HMIS and provide an option for CoCs to participate in a state HMIS if they choose to do so. The state HMIS would comply with HUD standards to facilitate federal reporting. Additionally, the proposed system would feature data analytics reporting tools, which would be available to both the state and CoCs. This would give the CoCs additional information to assist in policy setting and prioritizing services provided to homeless and at-risk individuals and families. In addition, it would allow the state to better understand the scope and characteristics of homelessness throughout California and begin to align state resources more effectively and efficiently with the needs of local communities. The Council would be in a position to provide data-driven advice on formulating sound policy and make recommendations on the most effective and efficient use of funds. 

• Phase II would include the development of an integrated platform that could import and link other client-level data from various state and local homeless programs, which would serve as a powerful, data driven tool used to inform policy and resourcing decisions. 

Frequently Asked Questions 

Question: Would CoCs be required to give up their current HMIS system? 
Answer: The CoCs would not be required to give up their current HMIS system. 

The proposed solution would include an option for CoCs to use a state-supported HMIS, which may reduce the burden felt by under-resourced CoCs currently maintaining an independent local HMIS. The state-supported HMIS would allow CoCs to directly enter data into the system, and the proposed system would comply with HUD standards to facilitate federal reporting. 

Whether individual CoCs decided to keep their own system or use the state-supported HMIS system, the Council envisions that client level data would be exported to the state’s database on a quarterly basis. If Phase II was implemented, the CoCs’ data would be integrated with the data from state departments that have programs or funding to address homelessness, which would provide critical insights into homelessness issues in California. 

Question: Would the state’s proposed data system track individual-level data?
Answer: Yes, the system would include the capacity to track individual-level data. 

This data is important to provide a comprehensive picture of the scope and demographics of homelessness in California, as well as the services and supports being provided. Council staff are working in close collaboration with CDT and data privacy/security experts to ensure the data system requirements would provide sufficient safeguards to protect sensitive data, as well as ensure compliance with all state and federal privacy and security laws. 

Question: What would be the benefit to CoCs participating in this project? 
Answer: The CoCs would be able to opt into the state HMIS as an alternative to administering their own CoC-level HMIS. 

All CoCs would gain access to a system that could integrate data and produce reports that provide feedback and local insights into homelessness, including alignment between programs and needs, opportunities for collaboration across programs, gaps in funding and services, and effective community strategies. The system would enhance both state and local entities’ ability to identify and develop effective strategies to reduce homelessness and better direct resources to ensure they have maximum impact in addressing the needs of California’s homeless.

Market Analysis 
Proposed IT projects in California must complete the Project Approval Lifecyle (PAL) process under the oversight of the California Department of Technology (CDT). The PAL process requires a thorough market analysis as a preliminary step to developing a specific IT solution. Throughout HCFC’s exploration of a potential HDIS, a consultant from HUD has provided expert advice and support, including information about how other states have implemented a statewide HDIS and what features of an IT solution are required by HUD for CoCs to be eligible for federal homelessness funding.