State funds Tulare $4.8M to house homeless individuals

(Rigo Moran)

City of Tulare receives $4.8 million in second round of Encampment Resolution Funding, helps fund permanent housing, portion goes toward construction of permanent shelter

CENTRAL VALLEY – After spending a year preparing and implementing different programs for individuals experiencing homelessness, the city of Tulare has been awarded additional funding. This will allow them to help even more individuals find their way into permanent housing.

On June 14 the city of Tulare was awarded $4.8 million in Encampment Resolution Funding (ERF) to help continue their movement of aiding individuals experiencing homelessness and getting them into permanent housing. As the city has already received funding from this program in 2022, deputy city manager Josh McDonnell said they will continue expanding on what they already have in place with the additional funding. Additionally, $1.2 million of this award will be allocated to the construction of the permanent homeless shelter.

“This was fantastic,” McDonnell said. “It’s a continuation, round two of the same grant and the city was successful. This is a huge boost to the city.”

This second round of funding will help scale the project to help provide services to the other 100 individuals who are residing in the encampment. There are currently upwards of 170 individuals in the encampment. The program is completely voluntary and those who are in the encampment do not have to be a part of the ERF program. According to Alexis Costales, senior housing and grant specialist for the city of Tulare, there has been a lot learned over the past year.

“The ERF two application is to scale and address some of those gaps, if you will, or some of those shortcomings in ERF one,” Costales said. “All the great work to date and the learning to date helped prepare the city of Tulare to compete for additional ERF two funds.”

The city’s first round of funding was awarded in March 2022 and they received $1.5 million. City staff put that money to good use as they created a program that ultimately is helping around 70 individuals experiencing homelessness. Those individuals have since voluntarily moved from encampments along Centennial Park in Tulare to the city’s Tulare Cares Encampment.

There, access to a variety of services including social workers, mobile health care, showers, meals and more is offered in a centralized location. Since the start of the program, of the 70 individuals who were included in the first round, 24 individuals have exited the program, with 16 in permanent housing.

Costales said he is hopeful this second round of funding will take the city into November 2024 as they are still using some of the round one funding. The $4.8 million will be split several ways to encompass the full spectrum of what the money is to be used for.

Twenty one percent of the funding will be going to expanding direct services in the field which includes food and showers as well as staffing. This includes the addition of a licensed clinical social worker, and case managers to help out with caseloads for existing case managers. Seventy two percent of the funding will be used for a variety of permanent and supportive housing options for individuals in the ERF program.

“​​The focus that we are up to was to really expand interim and permanent housing options,” Costales said.

The 72% will be split between three things: $414,000 going to deposit and rent assistance programs for individuals, $1.2 million for construction of 16, 100 square foot interim housing units at the homeless shelter, and $1.3 million for interim and permanent housing for individuals. The ladder will allow eight rooms for three years, specifically designated for interim housing somewhere in Tulare and 15 rooms for 15 years for permanent housing for individuals.

The remaining 2.5% from the recent award will go toward costs needed from city staff such as training, mileage and other costs that may become necessary.

Costales said none of this would have been possible without those individuals, nonprofits and different organizations who are working day in and day out helping the individuals in the field. He said on average per month at the encampment, they have provided 2,800 meals and 322 showers. Costales said he gives all the credit to the city’s partners: Kingsview, Kings and Tulare Homeless Alliance, Salt+Light, Adventist Health Tulare, Tulare County Health and Human Services Agency, Clean the World Foundation.

“They’re the ones driving this project. City staff serve as project oversight and grant admin and at the end of the day, it’s all those professional staff doing their jobs well,” Costales said. “The successes and the learning that we were able to identify, and areas of improvement, helped us compete for that funding. And gosh, we’re gonna have a great foundation here, plenty of hard and meaningful work ahead, but it’s going to allow us to scale and get more folks indoors ultimately.”

Tulare was one of 23 projects in 22 communities statewide who received funding. This recent allocation that was announced by the Governor’s office was for a total of $199 million. It was the third, and largest, ERF round of grants to be distributed. Across the Valley, the city of Fresno received $17 million to serve 1,300 individuals.

According to a press release from the Governor’s office, ERF is administered by the Business, Consumer Services and Housing Agency (BCSH) and the California Interagency Council on Homelessness (Cal ICH).  More than half of the projects are for resolving encampments along state rights-of-way. The project was designed by Gov. Newsom and the legislature provides communities of all sizes with the funding to move people living in encampments into housing. Previously, 26 communities were awarded $96 million from the fund over two rounds.

In total, the administration has proposed providing $750 million to support 10,000 individuals living in dangerous conditions on our streets without shelter.

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