Emergency funding to help homeless in Colusa County

The Colusa County Behavioral Health Department has applied for emergency funding to help people with mental illness get off the streets and out from under bridges.

County officials were notified in July that $100,000 was available from the California Department of Health Care Services’ Homeless Mentally Ill Outreach and Treatment Program to help reduce the number of people with mental illness living on the streets, said Deputy Director Michael Laffin.

The Board of Supervisors last week approved a resolution affirming the county’s commitment to combating homelessness and improving outreach and treatment for those living with severe mental illness in the community, pursuant to the provisions of SB 840, which authorized $50 million to address the growing homeless crisis in California.

Colusa County Behavioral Health Deputy Director Michael Laffin said all California counties are eligible for the funding, although they are encouraged to leverage the money for other sources of funding in order to implement programs or activities that address mental illness among populations with a high likelihood of homelessness, including those with recent involvement in the criminal justice system or released from incarceration.

“This is one-time money that is uniquely unrestricted that will allow us to build bridges for our homeless outreach and treatment services,” Laffin said.

According to the National Coalition for the Homeless, about 25 percent of the homeless population in the United States suffers from some form of severe mental illness.

The $100,000 grant was approved in the state’s budget to help counties with a range of homeless programs, including housing vouchers and shelter construction. Voters will also have a say on two housing-related bond measures on the November 5 ballot to help the homeless or those at risk of being homeless. One of the measures clarifies the intention of $2 billion that the Legislature previously approved in 2016, but has been tied up in court because of a lawsuit that argued that the money comes from funding sources voters approved for mental health services, not housing. Also on the ballot is a $4 billion bond measure for housing low-income and veterans.

Laffin said Behavior Health may use the $100,000 to hire a third party to get an accurate homeless count in Colusa County while waiting for the other funding for the county’s rapid rehousing program, which is aimed at getting the homeless with mental illnesses into supportive housing and off the streets permanently.

“This (SB 840) would be a welcome transition until that funding is available to us,” he said.

Laffin said the only restriction on the $100,000 grant is that just 5 percent of the money can be used on administrative costs.

“That means it all goes out to the community,” he said.