Fremont City
California

Staff Report
3536

HOMELESSNESS STUDY UPDATE - Presentation of Staff Analysis of Council Direction from April 17 Study Session on Homelessness

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Department:City Manager's OfficeSponsors:
Category:Presentations

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Executive Summary: On April 17, 2018, the City Council held a Study Session devoted to the topic of homelessness where staff presented a list of potential options for Council consideration Council directed Staff to study the options further and to bring additional information back to the City Council at a future meeting. This report provides additional information and more detail on some of the potential options for the City Council to consider.

Body

BACKGROUND: The City Council held a Study Session on the topic of homelessness at its April 17, 2018 City Council meeting. Staff presented information on the scope of the homeless issue facing the City of Fremont, its regional neighbors and the State of California as a whole.

 

In addition, staff presented potential strategies for the City Council to consider in addressing the local homelessness challenge. The City Council directed staff to explore the following potential strategies and bring back additional information at a future City Council meeting:

 

1.              Enhanced Staffing: Add four new staff positions in the FY 2018/19 Budget including a Homeless Services Manager, Case Manager, Code Enforcement Officer, and Park Ranger.

2.              Modify the Emergency Shelter Ordinance: Amend requirements to allow faith based organizations to provide for temporary housing relief during winter months and consider waiving City fees which may be required.

3.              Day Center: Explore identifying locations in Fremont and potential service providers to site a Day Center.

4.              Year-Round Temporary Shelter: Explore identifying year-round temporary shelter site(s) which may include existing buildings or the use of portable buildings. This could also include alternative temporary housing modes such as: a) a sanctioned encampment, b) creating a temporary tuff shed or tent location in Fremont with provided on-site management, security, support and housing navigation services, and/or c) sanctioned safe parking area(s) for cars and RVs with oversight and public amenities.

5.              Flexible Housing Fund: Explore establishing an incentive fund to encourage landlords to accept housing subsidies for rapid rehousing of homeless families and individuals, or those individuals and families who are housed but overcoming a crisis and are at risk of eviction.

6.              Shelter Emergency: The City Council could declare a “Shelter Crisis” to allow for more short term and temporary places to allow for homeless residents to safely sleep. A City can do this if it feels there is a “significant number of persons without the ability to obtain shelter, resulting in a threat to their life and safety”.

 

DISCUSSION/ANALYSIS: The purpose of tonight’s agenda item is to provide more information to the City Council on the various strategies listed above and to seek further direction and prioritization from the City Council given the City’s fiscal constraints.

 

1.              Enhanced Staffing: As part of the City Council Adopted FY 2018/19 Operating Budget, four new positions were funded including a Homeless Services Manager, Case Manager, Code Enforcement Officer, and Park Ranger. Staff is currently in the process of creating the new job classification for the Homeless Services Manager and expects to initiate the recruitment in July. The other three positions are within existing job classifications and the recruitments should be posted prior to this agenda item being heard.

 

2.              Modify the Emergency Shelter Ordinance: A cross-departmental team consisting of staff from Planning, Building, Fire, Human Services, and the City Attorney’s Office is developing proposed revisions to the existing ordinance that would allow faith-based organizations meeting certain basic building safety standards to provide emergency shelter for up to nine individuals without the need to obtain a permit.  Staff anticipates bringing the proposed changes to Planning Commission in July/August and to Council in September. Staff is also performing outreach to the faith-based community to ensure the proposed changes to the Ordinance will allow faith-based organizations to provide emergency shelter and to assess potential interest in the program.

 

3.              Day Center:

Explore options to site a Day Program (Homeless Wellness Center)

Bay Area Community Services (BACS) is the largest homeless provider in Alameda County. It was founded in 1953, and has provided services in Fremont since 1974. BACS offers 11 programs for chronically homeless individuals, including nine in Alameda County. It operates two interim housing models (Berkeley’s STAIR Center and Oakland’s Tuff Shed Navigation Center) as well as the 137-bed Henry Robinson Hotel, where participants may stay for 4-6 months and exit the program with an 80% success rate into permanent housing. BACS currently works with over 1,000 landlords throughout Alameda County.

 

City staff and BACS are exploring the possibility of expanding its Wellness Center, located at 40963 Grimmer Boulevard, into a Homeless Wellness Center (HWC)Currently, the BACS Wellness Center provides services to mentally ill adults, many of whom are homeless. It is co-located with BACS’ Adult Day Center, which provides activities and socialization for elders with memory disorders.  BACS has a tentative agreement to transition the adult day center services to another qualified local provider, therefore freeing up space for potential expansion of the HWC, while ensuring no loss of services to seniors.

 

HWC Objectives and Services: BACS recommends the proposed HWC work very closely with the Abode Services, Fremont Housing Resource Center, and the Family Resource Center to ensure that all services offered at the HWC are aligned with a Housing First philosophy, so that the model does not inadvertently prolong someone’s homeless situation, but instead propels them forward into housing.

 

Key Program components:

Population:              Homeless adults living in Fremont

Census:               50 to 75 individuals per day.

Days of Service:              Seven days a week, from 8 PM to 8 PM.

Key Services:              Mental health, employment and housing services. Dignity services, including showers and lunch. 

Key Resources:              Flexible Housing and clients funds              

 

According to BACS, HWC is a harm reduction model appropriate for individuals at all stages of homelessness. It provides an accessible, barrier-free atmosphere that supports dignity, solution-focused problem-solving, interventions, and resources. Individual services include an individualized housing plan that combines “document readiness”, legal/financial benefits, employment, natural community supports, and other needed linkages. Group classes include a “Housing Education” series that supports housing skills, such as how to be a good tenant, landlord/tenant mediation skills and housing searches.

 

A key resource, necessary for the success of this model, is a flexible housing fund used to place people in housing. BACS estimates the cost of security deposits and first/last/titrated rent at approximately $6,000 per client. The titrated rent can extend out six months.

 

Facility Improvements: The facility already has many amenities appropriate for a homeless wellness center, including a full commercial kitchen, ample bathrooms, a shower, a hair shampoo station, multiple breakout rooms, classroom and group space, and a secure outdoor area with garden. To be fully functional as a HWC, BACS proposes to add the following amenities:

 

·         Washer/Dryer for laundry,

·         A second shower,

·         Furniture, including recliners and a ‘Zzzz’s Space’ for individuals to rest, and

·         Additional storage added for individuals to secure personal belongings.

Fiscal Impact: BACS estimates $100,000 is needed for one-time (capital) facility improvement costs.  BACS also estimates needing $450,000 in additional annual support to properly staff and operate the HWC, which includes $100,000 in flexible housing assistance funds. This does not represent the full HWC operating budget. BACS would leverage existing Alameda County mental health funds to staff and operate the center.

 


Homeless Wellness Center Funding Estimate

 

One-time Costs

Amount

Facility Improvements:

$100,000

Total One-Time Costs:

$100,000

 

 

Ongoing Operating Costs per Year

 

3 FTE: Peer Counselor, Employment Coordinator and Housing Specialist:

$187,000

Food, Hygiene, Program and Operating:

$120,000

Flexible Housing Assistance:

$100,000

Overhead:

$43,000

Total Ongoing Operating:

$450,000

 

 

 

4.              Year-Round Temporary Shelter: City staff conducted a survey and assessment of siting options for a temporary homeless shelter facility.  Initial input into the site review process was done collaboratively by staff from Public Works (Real Property team), Community Development, Human Services, Economic Development and the City Manager.  Further input regarding site options was provided by staff from Police, Fire, Community Services, and the City Manager.  

 

Two sites have emerged as the most viable: 1) the Irvington BART Station Area near Washington Boulevard and Osgood Road; and 2) the City’s Maintenance Center area near Blacow Road and Osgood Road.  The criterion used to consider sites included the following:

 

·            Size: The size of the site should be sufficient to accommodate 50 beds; support facilities for limited food preparation, hygiene service delivery, communication; and space for vehicle parking.  Facilities are envisioned to be portable building units and occupy a total space of approximately 20,000 square feet.

 

·            Land Use Conformity: The City’s zoning code allows for shelter facilities to be located on lands designated as Public Facility or Service Industrial.  Fremont’s designated Service Industrial zones include areas along Osgood Road, Auto Mall Parkway, Albrae Street, Central Avenue, and the Shinn industrial area.  It is noted that park lands are restricted from being developed for uses other than for park purposes.

 

·            Ownership and Availability: Staff reviewed all City owned properties and consulted with a commercial real estate broker to review privately owned sites within Service Industrial areas.  Due to current market conditions, the availability of vacant sites is very limited and property owners were not willing to consider leasing space to the City for a shelter use.  Staff also explored properties located within PG&E electric transmission easements and was informed that PG&E policies specifically prohibit building structures within the easement.

 

·            City Policy Compatibility: Several sites were dropped from consideration due to incompatibility with other City policy goals.  These include: the City’s Decoto and Isherwood sites which are being proposed for sale; the City’s Civic Center and Warm Springs properties which are planned for civic and economic development purposes; and the County’s Shinn Street property which has substandard public safety access since it is served by a single street that is subject to frequent train crossings. 

 

The following sites are considered most viable for a temporary homeless shelter facility, but have constraints:

 

·         Irvington BART Station Site: This site could accommodate a temporary shelter facility at several locations on lands owned by the City or BART.  The site currently has service by AC Transit along Washington Boulevard (with 30 minute daily service) and Osgood Road (with 60 minute weekday service).  However, the Irvington BART Station project is currently being developed with a goal to start construction in 2022.

 

·         Maintenance Center Site: This site has limited service by AC Transit along Osgood (with 60 minute weekday service).  Shelter development would occupy existing parking spaces which could be restored by creating diagonal parking on Blacow Road.  The City-owned historic building (Durham House) could be adapted for use to support shelter services.

 

As a next step, Staff can prepare specific site development concepts and cost estimates for the shelter options selected for further study.

 

5.              Partnership with Landlords – Housing Subsidies and Incentives: With the scarcity of affordable housing for very low and low-income individuals, flexible housing subsidy pools have proven effective in creating new housing options. A subsidy pool can include funding for both short-term rental subsidies and landlord incentives and risk mitigation. Flexible housing funds can also be used to help provide housing subsidies for those undergoing a housing crisis which could lead to homelessness. Staff is recommending two different options for the City Council to consider.

 

Short-term Rental Housing Subsidies: In this housing support model, short-term flexible rental subsidies are provided on a time-limited (6 month average) basis.  Funds can be used for security deposits, first and last month’s rent, or titrated rent, as individuals overcome a temporary crisis or financial setback.

 

Temporary subsidies generally average $6,000 per individual per year, with titrated rent extending up to six months. Assuming 50 individuals, the annual cost would be $300,000.

 

Staff acknowledges that housing agencies also need long-term permanent subsidies, which are provided to the most severely disabled and most chronically homeless, often for persons who make less than 20% of median income. While staff is supportive of long-term rental subsidies, these programs may be cost-prohibitive within the context of the anticipated City budget for homeless services. Subsidies may cost an average of $2,000 per month, per unit, for an annual unit cost of $24,000.  The total annual cost of providing subsidies for 50 individuals would be $1.2 million per year.

 

              Landlord Incentive and Risk Mitigation Fund: Landlords in Fremont have benefited from a robust housing market and as a result have been reluctant to accept tenants who are homeless with governmental subsidies to help offset their rents. Staff is recommending providing landlord incentives similar to those provided by neighboring cities and counties.  These incentives and mitigation funds may also incentivize rental housing associations to set aside units for homeless individuals and families. 

 

Local Incentive / Mitigation Fund: $100,000

 

Jurisdiction

Example

Incentives /

Mitigations

Per unit

cost

Alameda County

Health Care Services

Agency

Landlord incentive to provide a permanent supportive housing unit for subsidized participants.

$1,000

Marin County

loss mitigation, for up to one month of rent, to repair any excessive damage.

Up to $3,500

Marin County

Security Deposit

$2,500

Los Angeles County

Damage mitigation, and vacancy payments to hold a rental unit for 1-2 months after a tenant with a subsidy has been accepted by the landlord and while landlord goes through HUD approval process.

Up to $3,000

 

A small landlord incentive and risk mitigation fund ($100,000) could be used to encourage landlords to work with non-profits and other entities that offer housing subsidies, encouraging more units to be available for rapid re-housing or master leasing.

 

6.              Declare a Shelter Emergency: To allow for more short term and temporary places for homeless residents to safely sleep, the City could declare a “Shelter Crisis” under California Government Code Section 8698 et seq. A City can do this if it finds there are a “significant number of persons without the ability to obtain shelter, resulting in a threat to their life and safety.” The declaration of a shelter crisis provides the City with immunity from liability for ordinary negligence and it also allows suspension of any state or local regulatory statute, regulation or ordinance prescribing standards of housing, health or safety when necessary to expedite the use of public facilities for shelter

 

If the City were to declare a shelter emergency, it would have the added benefit of positioning the City to receive additional funding from newly available State funds. The 2018-19 State Budget includes $500 million in emergency funding to help local governments across the state address homelessness. The grants will provide funding to local governments to respond to homelessness through prevention efforts, emergency aid and providing wrap-around services. Local Continuums of Care, the regional or local planning bodies that coordinate housing and services funding for homeless families and individuals, will administer the grants. Jurisdictions must declare an emergency shelter crisis, and Continuums of Care must demonstrate coordination between cities and counties.

 

If the City Council was to direct Staff to pursue declaring a Shelter Crisis, Staff would plan to bring the item back for Council consideration in September 2018.

 

As was discussed at the April 17, 2018 Council Study Session, the needs around homeless services are significant and the City has limited resources. The approximately $500,000-600,000 of remaining funds allocated as part of the 2017/18 Mid-Year Budget Review would be easily exhausted with the homeless services contemplated in this Staff Report. To the extent the City Council directs Staff to pursue some or all of the options listed in this Staff Report, Staff is recommending that City Council direct Staff to identify additional funding sources outside of the City’s General Fund to provide for these new programs. The City has already secured a $100,000 Emergency Solutions Grant from Alameda County Housing and Community Development (ACHCD), should the City decide to provide a year-round shelter.  The City has also secured a $6,000 annual award from United Way of the Bay Area (UWBA) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for the warming center to be open on consecutive nights. The City’s General Fund ability to take on new significant ongoing expenses for homeless or other services is limited and the City should look to financially partner with the other government entities to leverage the City’s limited resources.

 

FISCAL IMPACT: Not applicable at this time pending future Council actions.

 

ENVIRONMENTAL REVIEW:  Not applicable.

 

ATTACHMENTS:  None.

Document Comments

RECOMMENDATION: Receive Staff Report and provide City Council priorities or additional direction to Staff on the proposed strategies to address the homeless challenges in Fremont.