The Colusa County Department of Behavioral Health had hoped to make an application for the first round of funding, but Thursday’s deadline would have cut the Board of Supervisors off from seeing and approving the final contract before it went to the state.
Proposition 2 was passed by the voters on Nov. 6, 2018, which authorized the state to use funds from Proposition 64 (Millionaire’s Tax) on $2 billion in revenue bonds for homelessness prevention and housing for persons in need of mental health services.
“It is our assessment that the funding will be less competitive in the first round,” said Terence Rooney, director of Colusa County Behavioral Health.
Rooney had given a presentation on the “No Place Like Home” program at the board’s Jan. 8 meeting, and returned on Jan. 22 to request the county move forward with a plan that would be put together in just a few weeks time with little or no input from the board or public. No Place Like Home is a state bond initiative to develop permanent supportive housing for persons experiencing homelessness, chronic homelessness, or who are at risk of chronic homelessness, largely due to mental health issues or substance abuse.
The state has funding specifically set aside for small counties, although there would be no guarantee Colusa County would be awarded the money, Rooney said.
Colusa County is eligible for a $4.2 million loan, which would be paid to a developer to build housing for those in the target group, officials said. The board could apply for the second round of funding in October, but Rooney said the competition would likely be greater because more counties would be standing in line for a limited amount of money.
The board, however, rejected the application at this time, at the recommendation of County Administrator Wendy Tyler, so the county could get a better idea just how to best serve those in need.
“I understand that we are anxious to apply in this round because it is less competitive and we stand a better chance of being funded, but I would rather see us confident in the data that we are putting forward in a plan that we are building that talks about other components, not just people with mental illness or are housing insecure,” Tyler said.
Tyler said the county needed to be confident in the numbers of people that a housing project would benefit, as well as the type of housing and services, including substance abuse services, mental health care, crisis counseling, individual and group therapy, and peer support groups the county would be required to provide for an extended period of time.
Tyler said it was a big decision and that the Board of Supervisors needed to understand the plan in its entirely.
“It could have a huge impact on our community,” she said. “I’m not saying it’s a negative impact at all, but I think its something that is worth taking the time to ensure that we do it right, and engage all of the folks that we need to, just as we’ve done with cannabis; just as we’ve done with the general plan. We don’t rush things through just because we have a better chance of getting the money today rather than getting the money in October.”
According to Colusa County Behavior Heath, 75 percent of the 64 respondents surveyed, housing is the greatest hurdle to getting or staying off the streets.
“Many don’t have housing or are paying way too much for the housing they have,” Rooney said.
The board denied the application with hopes of developing a bigger picture as to the needs of Colusa County residents that are experiencing chronic homelessness or are in jeopardy of becoming homeless, not just those with mental health issues.
“To me is just seems rushed,” said Supervisor Denise Carter. “I think if we develop a good program in six months, I think we will be in equally good position to receive a loan.”
About 554,000 people in the United States were homeless in 2017, according to the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and 25 percent of them lived in California.
No Place Like Home Program placed about 134,278 people on the streets on any given night in 2017. Of them, 11,472 were veterans and 15,458 were young adults 18 to 24.
According to HUD, the rise in homelessness is correlated to the increase in the cost of living and the impact it has had on the poor, whose wages have not increased. With the cost of living is factored in, California has the highest poverty rate in the nation. ■