Homelessness is so pervasive in Alameda County that the only long-term solution to the problem may be to ask voters to approve a bond measure, says Alameda County Supervisor Wilma Chan.
“There just isn’t enough money to serve this county,” Chan said during an agenda item at Alameda County Board of Supervisors meeting Tuesday to allocate $1.9 million for the unsheltered homeless.
“It’s just a drop in the bucket,” Chan acknowledged. The high cost of combating homelessness is steep, she added, and ongoing. A certain number of the homeless population will remain indigent no matter what, said Chan, necessitating longer term funding, such as a ballot measure.
Chan did not elaborate on when a potential measure could appear on a ballot, although the 2018 election cycle is just around the corner.
Meanwhile, the county’s emergency program for the homeless, approved Tuesday, includes a process Alameda County cities to apply for funding, including $1 million for cities and $500,000 for the unincorporated areas. The remaining $400,000 is set aside for unforeseen needs in the coming months, said county staff.
Although, spread over the county’s 14 cities and jurisdictions, the amount of funding is small, cities like Oakland can potentially parlay the one-for-one grant into larger state and federal funding.
Alameda County Supervisor Richard Valle expects the county’s allocation will not going to last long. “In the big scheme of things the money is not so great,” he said. “It’s going to exceed the amount because the homeless issue is so rampant around the county.”
But Oakland was already seeking a greater share of the county’s homeless funding Monday night. Mayor Libby Schaaf sent a letter to the Board of Supervisors asking them to open a county-funded navigational center for the homeless in Oakland.
The city opened a similar center, featuring sheds for the homeless and other city services on Monday. Schaaf also inquired whether any county-owned parcels in Oakland could be used for the homeless.
Granted the request was on short notice, said Alameda County Administrator Susan Muranishi, she did not believe such a parcel was available. Furthermore, a request by Schaaf for the county to assign a mental health officer to Oakland was met with some resistance. A number of county mental health staff already help Oakland patients in various capacities, said staff.
By Steven Tavares.