The holidays are right around the corner, but that didn’t stop Redding City Councilwoman Kristen Schreder on Wednesday from gathering a who’s-who of social workers and other providers for a workshop on her community initiative to combat homelessness.
“Homelessness never takes a holiday,” Schreder said while wrapping up the two-hour session at The Stirring on Churn Creek Road.
The workshop was intended to present a snapshot of the homeless situation as it exists today, ranging from definitions and population estimates to a review of the housing assistance, shelters, social service programs and medical aid currently available.
That information is a key part of the Redding Area Homelessness Coalition Project, an initiative Schreder launched in May as a companion piece to the Blueprint for Public Safety. Using only donated funds, Schreder has retained HomeBase, a San Francisco-based consulting group, and Symmetric Solutions to analyze the costs associated with homelessness and develop a 10-year strategic plan to address the issue.
Work on the strategic plan begins in January, Schreder said, and is expected to be completed by June.
The two-phase contract has a total cost of $113,560. Schreder reported brisk progress on fundraising with $81,150 gathered as of Dec. 8. Donations to the project are tax-deductible since United Way of Northern California has agreed to serve as the fiscal agent.
Jonathan Anderson, executive director of the Good News Rescue Mission, shared the new definition of a chronically homeless person as per the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD): a person with a disability who has been living in a place not meant for human habitation, in a shelter or a safe haven for the past 12 months, or on at least four occasions in the past three years where those occasions cumulatively total at least 12 months.
The four root causes of homelessness?
1. Economics or the age-old “falling on hard times.” Anderson noted that some 40,000 Shasta County residents are believed to be at or below the federal poverty line.
2. Generational poverty, where children grow up never knowing anything other than living off of a government system.
3. Substance abuse and addiction. Anderson quickly added that a lot of homeless people are not substance abusers or addicts.
4. Mental health issues, which he said covers the majority of Good News Rescue Mission guests, “and the longer they remain homeless, the more mentally unstable they become and the more likely they are to become substance abusers.”
Ellen Pfeiffer with the Shasta County Continuum of Care gave a brief outline of the HUD-mandated Point-in-Time homeless count, which will be conducted on Jan. 26. Information from the survey will help the homeless assistance community understand the breadth of the issue, including the number and characteristics of the homeless population.
Providers also will be able to assess the adequacy of shelters, transitional and permanent housing resources and channel available resources to better meet current needs, Pfeiffer said.
Bobbi Sawtelle, the housing director with Northern Valley Catholic Social Service, outlined the permanent housing options available for chronically homeless tenants with mental health issues, including the 34 subsidized-rent apartments available through New Path Housing, Partners in Housing and Partners in Housing II.
Faithworks provides housing for homeless families with children at its Francis Court facility, where 136 families have been housed since it opened in 2006, according to Monique Taylor, the executive director. Some 41 veterans have found a home at the House of Cornelius since it opened in March 2012. Both facilities are two-year programs.
Melissa Janulewicz, director of regional services with the Shasta County Health and Human Services Agency, described the new Rapid Rehousing program for families enrolled in CalWORKS.
The program’s focus is to get homeless families back into housing as soon as possible, under the theory that “once a roof is over a person’s head,” other social services can be delivered more effectively, Janulewicz said.
Other Shasta County programs include case management (but no financial assistance) for unsheltered adult homeless persons not living with children; a “once in a lifetime” assistance program for homeless people that pays for up to 16 nights in a hotel or up to two months of back rent payments to avoid eviction; intensive case management for families whose parents who are enrolled in the Welfare to Work program; a new housing support program for CalWORKS clients receiving cash assistance; and visits by community health advocates for vulnerable clients facing barriers to housing, food, health care and education.
Visit www.shastahhsa.net for details on the above programs.
Douglas McMullin, a physician with the Shasta Community Health Center, and Heather Russell, a case manager assigned to the HOPE van, explained how the mobile outreach operation sees about 15 to 30 patients a day. Dental services are provided on Tuesdays at the Shasta Community Health Dental Center at the north end of the Market Street Promenade.
Photos by Jon Lewis.