Tulare accepts grant money to bring services to unhoused community

California Interagency Council on Homelessness Encampment Resolution Funding offers $1.5 million toward services for current encampments, housing solutions

TULARE – The unhoused communities living in Tulare’s homeless encampments will soon have improved access to a number of resources and pathways to housing thanks to a $1.5 million grant awarded to the city last month. 

The grant was awarded to the city and five partner organizations through the California Interagency Council on Homelessness Encampment Resolution Funding (ERF) Program, which gives grants to organizations offering to provide improvements to health and safety conditions within homeless encampments. 

Through the project, case managers and housing navigators from partnering organizations will conduct daily outreach with encampment residents with the goal of eventually implementing housing plans for each individual. Before relocation can occur, however, the project aims to improve people’s quality of life at the encampments themselves. 

“One goal of the program as prescribed by the state, and even more importantly, the work plan that was proposed by the city and all these partner groups, was to improve the actual conditions on the ground for our neighbors experiencing homelessness, that’s number one,” said Alexis Costales, housing and grants specialist for the city of Tulare. 

Some services provided through the project will include mobile showers and restrooms at the encampment area, a dedicated waste and trash service, behavioral and medical healthcare and substance use counseling. A food truck run by partner organization Salt and Light Works will also be at the encampment three to four days a week to provide the community with meals. If clients are placed into housing through the project, they will each receive funds to cover 12 months of household costs like rent and utility bills. 

“It’s really about building those relationships with the individuals that are experiencing homelessness and making sure that we’re connecting them to the available resources that are already out there,” said Miguel Perez, executive director of the Kings Tulare Homeless Alliance (KTHA), one of the organizations partnering with the city on the project. “One of the things that I always tried to promote is that the investment that we make as a community to help out the individuals that are experiencing homelessness, that’s going to be an overall investment in the betterment of the quality of life of the entire community.”

The encampment that Tulare’s ERF project will focus on runs south along I Street and the Caltrans-owned Union Pacific Railroad from Centennial Park. Costales estimates that many people living there are local to the area and have been at the encampment anywhere from one to three years. The city recently passed an ordinance prohibiting overnight camping at most parks, but this doesn’t include the encampment area prioritized in the ERF project. 

In addition to the efforts aimed at improving health and safety conditions in the encampment, the ERF project provides funds for park restoration planning and construction costs. $280,000 in grant funds will be put towards improvements to the amenities at Centennial Park.  

“It’s not unwise to think about how a public resource like a park can be reimagined to include something that is accommodating and not vilifying to someone that’s experiencing homelessness,” Costales said. 

Costales said a future goal of the project could be the creation of a multi-department homeless outreach team that would respond to calls for services related to the city’s unhoused community. 

The city applied for the grant in December and was notified on Feb. 25 that the funding had been awarded. The project is planned to begin by mid-May and will take place over the course of two years.

“The phenomenon that causes someone to become unhoused is complex, and every community should have a system in place where we can make the experience of homelessness short and make the occurrence of it rare,” Costales said. 

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