County looking to spend $10 million on homelessness programs
SANTA CRUZ COUNTY — Santa Cruz County homeless advocates on Jan. 18 released a request for proposals to help address the growing number of people living on the streets.
At stake is $889,000 from the California Emergency Solutions and Housing program and nearly $9.7 million from the Homeless Emergency Aid Program.
Santa Cruz County and the Homeless Action Partnership are working in cooperation with local cities and service providers in the search, said Santa Cruz County spokesman Jason Hoppin.
Proposals will be vetted by a project selection committee, which will be comprised of “non-conflicted” members of the homeless services community, Hoppin said.
Project selection is expected to be concluded by the end of March, with the first contracts issued in April.
The money must be spent within two years.
With California homelessness soaring to 134,000 people in 2018 — a quarter of the nation's estimated homeless population — the state legislature recently passed emergency funding for local communities to address the statewide homelessness crisis.
According to the most recent point-in-time count, 2,249 Santa Cruz County residents were homeless, a crisis made highly visible due to 80 percent of the local homeless population being unsheltered. A new count is scheduled for Jan. 31.
“Homelessness is the critical issue facing our community. These much-needed and long overdue state funds will be spent as quickly as possible to help those in need and reduce community impacts," Santa Cruz County Supervisors Board Chair Ryan Coonerty said.
Watsonville Mayor Francisco Estrada said the funds will help generate new opportunities to serve homeless people.
“We are ready to work in partnership with service providers to generate some creative solutions to homelessness,” he said.
According to the 2017 count, two-thirds of local homeless persons have been in living in Santa Cruz County for five years or more, and one-third are currently employed. Fifty-five percent have a disabling condition, and nearly 600 homeless individuals are either transition-age youth or unaccompanied minors.
The RFP was created with “extensive” input from local elected officials, nonprofits, services providers and interested parties.
It includes priorities such as emergency shelters and navigation centers, homelessness prevention and rapid rehousing, support services, rental assistance and housing relocation.
To see the request for proposals, visit bit.ly/2Ml6g30
Grant applications are due Feb. 22, with an applicant orientation session to be held Jan. 25 from 10 a.m. - noon at United Way of Santa Cruz County, 4450 Capitola Road, Suite 106 in Capitola.