Tuesday’s meeting of the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors included a discussion on the shelter crisis in the unincorporated regions of the county.
According to the Point in Time Count (PITC) completed earlier this year, 2,118 persons experienced homelessness within the unincorporated communities. This represented a 13.5 percent increase from 2017 when 1,866 individuals were identified. Even more concerning, the unsheltered population increased by 22.4 percent this past year. The PITC showed the unincorporated portion of the county has 227 persons identified as homeless and living without shelter.
During Tuesday’s session, the Board was expected to adopt a resolution declaring the existence of a shelter crisis. The declaration will allow the Board of Supervisors to consider the use of certain public facilities, as defined by Government Code Section 8698, as short term-shelter for the homeless.
The declaration allows the county to suspend state and/or local regulations regarding standards of housing, health or safety to the extent that such strict compliance hinders or delays mitigation of the effects of the shelter crisis. However, the Board retains its discretion to approve or deny the request to use county land or public facilities for this purpose.
The declaration allows the County to apply for funds under the Homeless Emergency Aid Program (HEAP) which will allow approved services to be offered countywide. HEAP is a $500 million-dollar block grant program designed to provide direct assistance to cities and counties to address the homelessness crisis throughout California.
The HEAP program requires the block grant funds to be applied for and administered by what are defined as continuum of care entities who are authorized to participate in the process on behalf of their geographic areas. The applications must be submitted to the state on or before December 31, 2018.
The San Bernardino County Interagency Council on Homelessness (ICH) is the governing body for the San Bernardino City & County Continuum of Care (CoC). The total amount of HEAP funds available for the CoC is $9,389,654.30. Each San Bernardino County municipality or the County of San Bernardino seeking eligibility to apply to the ICH for HEAP funds must declare a shelter crisis.
The funding can be used for but is not limited to street outreach, health and safety education, criminal justice diversion programs, rental assistance or subsidies like housing vouchers, rapid re-housing programs, and eviction prevention strategies. The funding can also be used for capital improvements like emergency shelters, transitional housing, permanent supportive housing, small/tiny houses and improvements to current structures that serve homeless individuals and families as well as for emergency aid.