HA! Calendar

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Homeless Housing Budget Proposal

Homeless Emergency
Budget Recommendations
2018-2019 City of Santa Rosa

Despite various attempts to help and some mild success, the homeless emergency continues to exist in Santa Rosa.  
·      We have a shortage of critical shelter beds.  Officially, more than half of our homeless residents (769) sleep outside every night and, county-wide, nearly 2/3rds have no shelter.
·      Five large encampments and countless small ones have been cleared without any appreciable improvement in the number of people housed or any lessoning of the suffering of Santa Rosa’s homeless people. 
·      Last winter’s emergency shelter at the Armory cared for approximately 90 people a night, but there is no winter shelter planned for Santa Rosa this year.

There is good news.  The national affordable housing shortage and continuing numbers of homeless individuals has brought attention and some additional money to bear.  California, in particular, is providing new money for the temporary, non-standard shelter we are advocating, and they are looking for creative solutions.  With the help of city staff and non-profit partners, we anticipate bringing some of that money to Santa Rosa in order to provide higher quality emergency “stability first” shelter for many of the 769 people currently left out in the cold.   In addition we recommend a variety of policy changes to address this emergency.

We propose targeting $1.8 million in funding for immediate emergency shelter needs, using a variety of new initiatives and funding sources. We recommend that $310,000 be allocated in the city budget for this purpose.  We’re looking to both the city and county to provide matching funds for these projects in the coming year.  With help from city and county staff members in an ongoing planning process, we can significantly augment your contribution with other sources, some of which are discussed below.

Financial Recommendations


Number Served
Approx. Cost
Year-round “security first” shelter either in surplus buildings or on vacant land

Year-round Safe Parking

Winter Shelter Oct-March

Housing First Facilitator

In addition, we support a budgetary set aside of approximately $1.2 million for one or more permanent supportive housing projects. 

Description:  With the creation of the new senior center on Steele Lane, most of the senior services at Bennett Valley are scheduled to end.  This building could be repurposed to provide single room occupancy housing for approximately 70 homeless seniors on the model of the Palms Inn.  Some of the current classes could continue in a remodeled facility and remain open to the neighborhood seniors.  This project should be able to access some of the state funding detailed below.  If this building cannot be used, this money will be available for other opportunities.

Policy Recommendations

·      Before the Winter Rain.  Use an expedited timeline to get the projects with the least infrastructure and construction sited and ready for use in the next three months.

·      Open Private Land.  Adopt new incentives for private property owners to partner with homeless housing developers to use empty sites for temporary and supported housing until construction begins.

·      Open The Process.   In awarding this money, even for the smaller project, use an RFP process in order to begin building capacity among our diverse homeless service provider community.

·      Open Public Land.  Identify and provide funding to prepare all surplus public property for the development of permanent, supported housing in a variety of housing designs and capacities. 

·      Getting In the System.  Ensure that all homeless facilities and services comply with Housing First entry guidelines, expanding the available short-term beds.

·      Getting Housed.  Hire a “Housing First” Facilitator who is available for both sheltered and unsheltered homeless people.   Oblige all future projects by housing developers that are partly funded by the city or required by inclusionary zoning to include a percentage of extremely low income housing.  Expand the Santa Rosa Housing Authority priority for housing homeless people.

·      Best Advice from Everyone.  Establish an ongoing advisory group to provide guidance to the City on homeless services and facilities, bringing together providers, city staff, homeless individuals, and the community.

Expanded Descriptions

These policy and financial suggestions support a continuum of solutions including independent and supportive shelters, transitional villages, single-room occupancy hotels, master-leased apartments, and newly-constructed and subsidized low income housing projects.

Year-round “security first” shelter either in buildings or on vacant land:
From long experience, service providers, Homeless Action!, and independent volunteers are well aware of the required essentials and costs of making these approaches work. Proposals will be grounded in a growing body of literature on best practices and successful projects.  Whether called transitional villages, safe spaces, sanctioned encampments or something else, these options utilize existing structures within the homeless community’s current camps.  They add enough support and oversight to bring safety to the residents and comfort to the neighborhood.  Security first villages work best with roughly 30 people per site.  To keep the costs reasonable, we recommend an individualized staffing plan for each site, depending on client mix and other factors.  This option combined with some winter shelter beds can eliminate much of the instability, illness, and death experienced by the Last Chance villagers. Volunteers can assist with initial challenges and support at all sites.

Year-round Safe Parking.  This cost, potentially administered from an expanded CHAP program, covers the sanitation and stipend for an on-site volunteer manager.  Homeless Action! has operated a successful Safe Parking site at McBride Avenue for over a year and we understand the necessary components.   The Bennett Valley Senior Center with its 60 person parking lot is an obvious potential site for some Safe Parking slots.  Other city-owned sites can be located.

Winter Shelter Oct-March.  The $100,000 expense is based on the work of St. Vincent De Paul at the Armory in 2016-2018.  The Armory is expensive, unavailable on weekends and people have to leave early in the dark, cold mornings.  We recommend a search for a better facility.

Housing First Facilitator.  One full-time job similar to the Housing Navigators currently hired by Catholic Charities.  This worker would work in the wider community.

State & Local Matching Money

These state monies are more likely to come to Santa Rosa if the city already has money available for shelter and/or housing projects.  Because of the state-wide housing shortage and homeless emergency, these state-wide funds are likely to be highly competitive.

1)  California’s 2018-2019 budget includes one-time money of $500 million to address homelessness.  Details have not been released yet.   To get a share of this funding Santa Rosa will need a developer who is ready, willing and able to pursue a viable project.  

2)  "No Place Like Home", funding for supportive housing for people affected by mental illnesses.  Likely to be available early next year, although a court case about the legality of diverting service money to housing is being deliberated.  We may also see a ballot measure on the November ballot to allow this.  The initiative specifically targets cheap, innovative solutions, including transitional villages.

3) If the State housing bond is successful in November, $1.5 billion will go into MHP  (Multifamily Housing Program).  There will be a priority and/or set aside for projects that include a supportive housing component.

4)  We will also see funding coming from the "permanent source" approved last year.  It is likely to provide about $400 million annually.   This is not specifically targeted for supportive housing or other homeless-designated housing, but it can be used for those purposes.

5)  Homeless Action! supports a Santa Rosa bond measure for the November ballot.  

6)  Any successful award from one or more of these sources, including any city funding, will increase the likelihood of a project receiving an allocation of tax credits, the largest subsidy for low income rental housing. 

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