S. E. Williams
Reducing the county’s population of homeless veterans to zero in San Bernardino County may have sounded like a pipe dream to many. However, on October 20th the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to increase its level of financial commitment to make this dream a reality.
The approval will augment existing resources currently dedicated to homeless veterans’ programs in the county by allocating an additional $148,300 in discretionary dollars to support temporary and permanent housing solutions. It also identified an $100,000 set aside on behalf of the Housing Authority of San Bernardino County to establish a Repair Guarantee Program Fund for Veteran Housing. This fund will be established upon approval of a contract between the County of San Bernardino and the Housing Authority of San Bernardino. The contract will come before the board at a later date.
At the same time last week, the board authorized the use of up to $78,000 in existing County Housing Funds and $5,800 in Emergency Solutions Grant funds to be used in support of efforts to house homeless veterans.
Finally, the board agreed to increase funding to two contractors who currently provide services related to the county’s Homeless Veteran Housing Initiative. The contract amounts were increased by $116,050 each and bought the contracts’ $114,000 totals to a new contract amount of $230,000 each. The contracts’ expiration dates remain June 30, 2016. The monies will provide motel vouchers, security deposits, first month’s rent and first month’s utility payments for homeless veterans.
In January, a survey of the county’s homeless counted 401 homeless veterans. In late July, the Board of Supervisors conducted a study session focused on the county’s system for homeless services and the tragedy of homelessness among the county’s military veterans. During the session, the board set an ambitious agenda and directed staff members to work with community partners and other agencies in a coordinated effort to house all of the County’s veterans by December 31, 2015.
County’s Chief Executive Officer Greg Devereaux advised the board at the October 20 meeting, “Since that time [late July meeting], willing and interested partners have been working diligently to leverage sources, align services and eliminate impediments to achieving this goal.” Agencies participating in the effort include LightHouse Social Service Centers, Loma Linda University, Goodwill, United Way, California Apartment Association, Faith Advisory Council, Inland Valley Hope Partners, and National CORE, along with representatives from the San Bernardino County Sheriff, California Department of Health, Housing Authority of the County of San Bernardino, Behavioral Health, Veterans Affairs, Workforce Investment Board and the County Office of Homeless Services.
Also Since July, process participants identified the county’s lack of temporary housing as a significant roadblock to housing the veterans. The lack of a safe and suitable location to temporarily house veterans being processed for permanent housing often left the county unable to locate veterans for timely case management and placement. “It not only caused delays in processing it negatively affected their (veterans) access to permanent, stable housing and other benefits,” Devereaux explained.
The task force identified access to additional bridge housing resources and moving costs as critical to the county’s ability to achieve its goal of zero homeless veterans by the end of the year. The county’s 401 homeless veterans identified in January’s homeless count now stands at 196 and is continuing to decline.