California County Nearly 4 Times Less Able To Provide Beds For Homeless Than Comparable Out-of-State Counties

When Managing Mental Health & Homelessness, this California county stands out with respect to lack of bed availability.

Data sourced from 2021 HUD Performance Metrics
Inland Empire: San Bernardino County has continued an upward trend on unsheltered homeless that is set to increase in 2023’s recessionary environment.

Every year, the Federal government through the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) offers billions of dollars to provide county services needed funding for mental health and homeless services, most of which is focused on available emergency shelter beds. These County-level entities are called ‘Continuum of Care’, which is a term that unifies various services for individuals suffering homelessness, mental illness and often both.

Hereinafter, this article will refer to them as ‘COC’s’. COC’s nationwide vie for much needed federal funds and as asked to compete for said funding.

Like mentioned above, these COC’s offer worthwhile services catered to the most vulnerable: homeless individuals who are often comorbid for mental illness and substance abuse. These awards, however, are issued to counties, essentially, with no-strings attached; the only requirement is that basic demographic data on recipients and services provided be entered into a federal database called ‘HMIS’ (Homeless Management Information Services).

There are vast differences between counties. Most relevant to California is how ineffective their COC’s are relative to other out-of-state COC.

San Bernardino Receives A Generous Budget, But Lacks Results in Terms of Shelter Beds

According to the Department of Housing and Urban Development for the year of 2021, the County of San Bernardino spent $14,825,115 in the provision of emergency shelter beds reaching a total capacity of 747 total beds of which 622 beds are occupied

Lower Budgets, Better Results: Minneapolis, Honolulu – Las Vegas?!

In contrast, the Minneapolis/Hennepin County Continuum of Care receives $14,366,990, which is almost half a million dollars less than the county of San Bernardino, but is able to provide a capacity of 2635 emergency shelter beds for psychiatric purposes. Additionally, the problem may not be lack of cheap land masses or lack of willing builders, as a county based on an island state, like Hawaii’s Honolulu County, is able to provide 2247 beds with a budget of  $14,018,071 despite the very real possibility of running out of spaces.

Clark County, the home of ‘Sin City’ Las Vegas, has a budget that is only only around 800k more is able to provide 2475 beds. Put another way, Las Vegas’ Clark County only has 5 percent more in resources, but is able to provide nearly 70 percent more capacity. This suggest that if Clark County had San Bernardino’s budget, not much would change with their bed capacity and the could provide approximately 2270 beds. As a crude thought experiment, dividing HUD’s COC award funding evenly over the number of beds offered is costing 3x less in Clark County, 6305 dollars per bed. This is very different from San Bernardino’s cost which is a whopping 19,200 dollars per bed, assuming they are managing the same kind of outreach, staffing and administrative costs.

Effectiveness: Honolulu Uses Beds To Capacity While San Bernardino Uses 83 Percent of Available Beds

Many times counties are also measured on how effectively they are able to implement whatever resources are available to them. For example, a county must find a way to spend whatever money is allocated or return this resource to the federal government.

San Bernardino County is only able to fill 83% of its beds, but Honolulu is able to fill 100% of its 2247 beds. Some counties may fall below those levels possibly because they built out too much capacity, which is a good thing relative to their local needs.

Proactive Bed Planning

In Minneapolis/Hennepin County’s CoC, the 75% out of 2635 beds could indicate a robust capacity that can be tailored down or otherwise optimized. In fact, while Hennepin County’s occupancy rate has gone down slightly, their total need has gone up in Hennepin County. In 2020, Hennepin County was using 77% out of 2374 beds available. This year’s 75 percent is out of a larger share of beds suggesting that the county simply wants to stay ahead of the problem.

Needless to say, San Bernardino does not evoke a ‘proactive’ policy or forward thinking at the moment.

App For The Homeless Will Help Map Outreach Need

Last month, a new application called ‘Amicus‘ launched a public beta version for free use on the Google Play Store. The app is called ‘Amicus – Friend in Need’ and seeks to map out where homeless individuals or encampments can be observed throughout the Southern California area.

Amicus – Social Work Engineering Labs

Many places of business, residents and community members of various Southern California cities need a centralized place for spotting and reporting people in need of substance abuse or mental health services. Their frustration is that they are not able to provide help to homeless individuals who they may see frequently within their community spaces. As a result, a need to document and map where ‘friends in need’, as the application would like for us to reference the homeless community, becomes the one and most important thing many affected communities can do.

Homeless Individuals Are Often Victimized Due To Isolation

Due to the nature of homelessness, encampments can move over a short period of time. Even within a few days of being identified, homeless individuals in need can disappear and not be found until a significant personal need or addiction related ailment forces them to surface. Most homeless individuals suffer in silence and isolation, but encampments offers the semblance of community unified through shared pain.

Unfortunately, most crimes against homeless individuals are committed by members of their encampment or other homeless individuals adjacent. Thus, while we should always encourage the development of community, two individuals suffering from substance abuse can only provide one another with so much positive support.

Amicus – Demo App

Mapping the location of encampments can help outreach workers be more efficient. It can also create a historical log so that government workers can justify additional resources or intervention. Documenting mobile individuals while also providing context for other service providers will help facilitate individuals with substantial barriers for entry into government sponsored rehabilitation.

San Jose Starts Massive Sweep of Homeless Encampment Near Airport

Robert Handa, NBC Bay Area

02 de septiembre de 2022

After months of delays and debates, San Jose launched a massive month-long sweep of a sprawling homeless encampment near the airport Thursday.

It was a jarring site for the 200 or so unhoused people in the encampment around Guadalupe Gardens, as crews plowed through the targeted first zone, near Hedding Street, of the 40-acre site.

The September sweep is necessary for the city to meet an FAA mandated deadline to move the encampment away from the airport, or risk losing federal funding.

“We have 40 RVs that we moved out to the baseball field across the street, that has relieved some of the stress, but there are still people here,” said unhoused advocate Gail Osmer.

One is Carlos Rampolla, who has an old yellow school bus with seven dogs which hauls a mobile home.

He said it hasn’t been paradise, but he’s grateful.

“There’s a lot of noise because of the airplanes, so it’s kind of stressful,” said Rampolla. “But, well, at least I got to stay here.”

Advocates had hoped to delay the sweep because of the heat wave but city officials said they will pause abatement during peak heat days topping 88 degrees starting Saturday but will resume Wednesday.

By late afternoon, Rampolla was able to move to the far field away from the sweep.

The postal worker said the time at the encampment gave him a chance to save money.

“I was able to buy a lot here in California,” he said. “So I’m planning to build a house there.”

But advocates say Rampolla is the exception.

“Where are these 60 to 70 people living in an RV to go? There’s no plan,” said Osmer.

The city of San Jose, and Santa Clara County, as well as non profits were out there Thursday, trying to help people with their plans as they get pushed more and more into a corner.

“El presente artículo es propiedad de NBC Bay Area

Handa, R. (2022). San Jose Starts Massive Sweep of Homeless Encampment Near Airport. NBC Bay Area. Recuperado el 02 de septiembre de 2022, de https://www.nbcbayarea.com/news/local/south-bay/san-jose-homeless-encampment-sweep/2992800/

California CARE Court bill heads to Newsom

Madison Hirneisein, The Center Square

31 de agosto de 2022

A man stands next to tents on a sidewalk in San Francisco, Tuesday, April 21, 2020.Jeff Chiu / AP

(The Center Square) – California lawmakers gave the final stamp of approval Wednesday to a bill backed by Gov. Gavin Newsom that provides court-ordered treatment plans and supportive services for people on the schizophrenia spectrum or with psychotic disorders.

The bill, which establishes the Community Assistance, Recovery and Empowerment (CARE) Act, received broad bipartisan support in both chambers of the Legislature, passing in a 62-2 vote in the Assembly and unanimously in the Senate. The bill now heads to Newsom’s desk.

“Today’s passage of the CARE Act means hope for thousands of Californians suffering from severe forms of mental illness who too often languish on our streets without the treatment they desperately need and deserve,” Newsom said in a statement Wednesday.

Backed by cities across the state and strongly opposed by disability rights advocates and the American Civil Liberties Union, the bill would let a person petition for a court-ordered plan that could include behavioral health care, medication, and housing. The petition triggers hearings to develop a treatment plan.

Adults experiencing a severe mental illness like schizophrenia and are either “unlikely to survive safely” without supervision or have a condition that requires support to prevent deterioration could qualify for the program. The CARE plan could last for up to two years, providing services like medication and treatment.

Newsom and others have touted the measure as a way to break the cycle of homelessness and incarceration among people with severe mental problems.

The measure has faced strong opposition from groups within California and across the nation who fear it will result in coerced treatment that would take away a person’s right to make their own care decisions.

Eric Harris, the director of Public Policy with Disability Rights California, told The Center Square Wednesday that the organization still has major concerns about the bill and is “disappointed” in its passage on Wednesday. 

“Forced treatment and not providing guaranteed housing is not going to be beneficial to a lot of these people,” Harris said. “We believe that voluntary treatment options that are robust and guarantee accessible, affordable housing is going to bring out the best results and have people who want to engage in this type of process.”

Harris said the bill was constructed without input from a “large number of disability leaders,” noting that leaders at Disability Rights California “weren’t consulted at all.”

The bill received several amendments in its final days in the Legislature, including one that phases in implementation. The counties of Glenn, Orange, Riverside, San Diego, Stanislaus, Tuolumne and the city and county of San Francisco must implement the program by Oct. 1, 2023. The rest of the state has until Dec. 1, 2024.

Other amendments require funding from the Department of Health Care Services and substitute the director of county behavioral health as the petitioner if someone other than the director petitions the court.

As the bill wound its way through the Legislature, lawmakers raised concerns about how the program would be funded and whether counties would have the staffing to handle the program. In the end, the bill won praise from both Democratic and Republican lawmakers for its potential to curb addiction and homelessness.

“This measure, I believe, is the first truly bipartisan attempt to compassionately clear homeless encampments off our streets, sidewalks and highways, to assess the health behavior and needs of homeless individuals and to put together an actual plan to stop the downward spiral that many homeless individuals have so long been on,” Senator Brian Jones, R-Santee, said Wednesday. 

Two lawmakers voted against the measure – Assemblymember Ash Kalra and Mark Stone. In a statement sent to The Center Square, Kalra said he could not support the bill because the program has “missing pieces needed for an effective, sustainable solution.”

“While I echo the urgency to find a solution, if we do not couple permanent housing and wraparound services for our unhoused with severe mental illness, we are setting them up for failure,” Kalra said. 

Newsom has until Sept. 30 to sign the legislation.

“El presente artículo es propiedad de The Center Square

Hirneisen, M. (2022). California CARE Court bill heads to Newsom. The Center Square. Recuperado el 01 de septiembre de 2022, de https://www.thecentersquare.com/california/california-care-court-bill-heads-to-newsom/article_f6f2586e-298c-11ed-bacd-338ce7bcf81f.html

CA governor’s mental health care plan for homeless advances

JANIE HAR and ADAM BEAM, AP NEWS

31 de agosto de 2022

FILE – Tents line the streets of the Skid Row area of Los Angeles Friday, July 22, 2022. California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s proposal to steer homeless people with severe mental disorders into treatment was approved by the state Assembly on Tuesday, Aug. 30. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes, File)

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s controversial proposal to steer homeless people with severe mental disorders into treatment cleared the state Assembly on Tuesday and is on its way to becoming law despite objections from civil liberties advocates who fear it will be used to force unhoused residents into care they don’t want.

Homeless people with severe mental health disorders often cycle among the streets, jail and hospitals, with no one entity responsible for their well-being. They can be held against their will at a psychiatric hospital for up to 72 hours. But once stabilized, a person who agrees to continue taking medication and follow up on services must be released.

The bill the state Assembly approved on Tuesday by a 60-2 vote would require counties to set up a special civil court to process petitions brought by family, first responders and others on behalf of an individual diagnosed with specified disorders, such as schizophrenia and other psychiatric disorders.

The court could order a plan lasting up to 12 months, and renewable for another 12 months. An individual facing a criminal charge could avoid punishment by completing a mental health treatment plan. A person who does not agree to a treatment plan could be compelled into it. Newsom has said he hopes these courts catch people before they fall into the criminal court system.

The bill represents a new approach for California to address homelessness, a crisis the state has struggled with for decades. The state government spends billions of dollars on the issue each year, only for the public to perceive little progress on the streets.

“I believe that this bill is an opportunity for us to write a new narrative,” said Assemblymember Mike Gipson, a Democrat who voted for the bill.

The bill has now passed both houses of the state Legislature and needs one more vote in the state Senate before it will go to Newsom’s desk. Newsom has until the end of September to sign it into law.

The proposal had broad support from lawmakers who said it was clear California had to do something about the mental health crisis visible along highways and in city streets. Supporters relayed harrowing tales of watching loved ones cycle in and out of temporary psychiatric holds, without a mechanism to stabilize them in a long-term treatment plan.

Republican Assemblymember Suzette Martinez Valladares said her cousin, a Vietnam War veteran, had been living on the streets in a homeless camp before his death.

“I wish that my family had the tools that this bill is going to bring forward so that he might still be alive and with us,” she said. “This is going to save lives. It’s about time.”

Critics of the legislation have maintained that the state lacks enough homes, treatment beds, outreach workers and therapists to care for those who want help, never mind people compelled to take it. They say that people who choose to accept treatment are much more likely to succeed than those coerced into it.

“At what point does compassion end and our desire to just get people off the streets and out of our public sight begins?” said Assemblymember Al Muratsuchi, a Democrat who said he reluctantly supported the bill on Tuesday. “I don’t think this is a great bill. But it seems to be the best idea that we have at this point to try to improve a godawful situation.”

The bill says Glenn, Orange, Riverside, San Diego, San Francisco, Stanislaus, and Tuolumne counties must establish courts by Oct. 1, 2023, with the remainder by Dec. 1, 2024.

Courts could fine counties up to $1,000 a day for non-compliance, which counties believe is unfair if they don’t have enough support from the state in the way of housing and behavioral health workers.

“There will be no perfect solution to this problem. But this is better than doing nothing and it is too easy in a democracy to kick a problem down the road and do nothing,” said Assemblymember Steve Bennett, a Democrat who voted for the bill.

___

Har reported from San Francisco.

“El presente artículo es propiedad de AP NEWS

Har, J. & Beam, A. (2022). CA governor’s mental health care plan for homeless advances. AP NEWS. Recuperado el 31 de agosto de 2022, de https://apnews.com/article/health-california-gavin-newsom-mental-government-and-politics-c52069d7e48de92adf09b783b36bbaee