Fremont City
California

Staff Report
3422

HOMELESSNESS STUDY UPDATE

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Department:City Manager's OfficeSponsors:
Category:Presentations

Item Discussion

Executive Summary: This study session report sets out to define the scope and urgency of the homelessness issue facing the City of Fremont, its regional neighbors and the State of California as a whole. It will detail the activities that City staff are currently engaged in to mitigate the impacts of homelessness locally and it will introduce potential short and long term strategies for community consideration.

 

Historically, the homeless challenge in Fremont has been manageable within existing service levels but the issue has now reached a point which requires that the City identify new resources and strategies to manage it in a balanced manner. Addressing the problem will require a continuing effort to construct both affordable and affordable-supportive housing along with an allocation of additional enforcement staff to continue to provide adequate response to the community as well as additional resources in human services to provide more holistic support to Fremont residents experiencing homelessness.

 

In the short-term we cannot reasonably expect, nor does staff recommend that we try, to enforce our way out of the issue or simply add additional staff expecting a significant reduction in the homeless population - homelessness is a reality that won’t easily go away. Staff is recommending a strategy that supports coordinated efforts between multiple levels of government including federal, state, county and local as well as non-profit, service and faith–based organizations, landlords and housing developers.

Body

BACKGROUND:  Homelessness is a complex societal issue, not just for Fremont, but for the entire State of California.  In order to understand the City of Fremont’s homelessness issues, we must also understand the state and regional factors that have generated a statewide increase in homeless individuals.

 

State of California

 

California is home to 21 of the 30 most expensive rental markets in the nation and not one of its counties has sufficient affordable housing stock to meet the demand of low income residents. The state’s 2.2 million extremely low-income and very low-income renter households compete for 664,000 affordable rental homes.[1]

 

There is annual demand for 180,000 new units of housing in California each year, but annual production averages only 80,000.  Exacerbating this is that most of the demand is in coastal areas while most of the production is in inland areas. This supply/demand imbalance is what has driven the run-up in housing costs.[2]

 

After steady declines in homelessness from 2007 through 2014, the number of people without homes in California has now risen for three consecutive years. This is occurring not just in major cities and urban areas but also in suburban neighborhoods and rural California. Many smaller cities and counties that previously had little homelessness are now wrestling with how to address a problem frequently called a “humanitarian crisis”. [3]

 

The demographics of homelessness are changing, too. Many homeless individuals struggle with substance abuse disorders and mental illness. However, domestic violence, lack of affordable housing and employment opportunities which do not provide a livable wage, and the cost of health care have also pushed individuals into homelessness. In addition, thousands of Californians are displaced every year by natural disasters such as floods and wildfires.3

 

Alameda County and Regional

 

Every two years, during the last ten days of January, communities across the country conduct comprehensive counts of the local homeless population. In 2017, the City of Fremont again participated and, for the first time, paid to receive Fremont specific data which will allow for future baseline comparisons.

 

The number of homeless persons in Alameda County increased approximately 39% from 4,040 to 5,629 when counted in January 2017 as compared to January 2015. Fremont established for the first time a baseline count of 479 homeless persons in the City. Experts agree that the number of people without housing is likely 3 to 4 times higher than the point in time count.

 

Distressingly, the increase in aggregate homelessness is due to large increases in the number of unsheltered homeless people — those who not only have no place to call home, but are not able to find even temporary shelter. In Alameda County it is estimated that there is one shelter bed for every three unsheltered persons who are looking for one.

 

City of Fremont

 

Rising rents have outstripped the increase in wages for many Fremont residents. In Fremont the average rental cost of a one bedroom apartment rose from $1,152 in 2011 to $2,134 in 2017. According to the Zillow Rent Index, median rents in Fremont for all housing types have increased by approximately 50% between 2011 and 2018. Forty-two percent of Fremont renters are “rent burdened”, which means they pay more than 30% of their income for rent. 

 

The City of Fremont has experienced an increase in the number of complaints filed related to homeless activities in recent years, which has required more focus and coordination to address the community’s concerns. Beginning in late 2016, in an effort to provide more coordination among the various City Departments, the City began tracking the specific location of current and previous homeless camps/encampments via a GIS Application. As of the writing of this staff report, there have been approximately 140 reported encampments identified throughout the community. Staff has recently been inspecting the known encampment locations and, of the 140 staff has re-inspected 87, 17 or approximately 20% are currently being occupied. For purposes of tracking homeless camps/encampments, the definition we are using in Fremont includes a camp that has provisions set up for cooking, living, and sleeping such as a tent or other makeshift living quarters. This can include one or more individuals at the same location.

 

The recent increase of homeless persons in the City of Fremont has led to a significant increase in the calls for service for the City’s Police Department. The additional demand for police resources has diminished the availability of officers to handle other prioritized needs of the community. Police agencies from around the country are experiencing many of the same issues Fremont is experiencing. Law enforcement agencies consistently reported an increase in homelessness, calls for service and other associated community impacts. Staffing and funding limitations significantly restrict the availability and effectiveness of social service resources locally and throughout the country. These unfortunate circumstances place high demands and responsibility squarely on the shoulders of law enforcement, being one of the only consistently available City resources available 24 hours per day.

 

The recent increase in homelessness and related calls for service often times exceeds the capacity of available police resources. This occasionally leads to inefficient use of police staff, leaving other areas of the City underserved. As an example, our Mobile Evaluation Team (MET) recently spent over 30 hours of time at the Isherwood Site as the Police Department supported citywide efforts to clear the location of homeless encampments. Historically the homeless population in this area has not produced many police calls for service and we have experienced only minor criminal activity in this area. In contrast, other areas of the City with a high number of homeless people are experiencing greater levels of criminal offenses; disruptive activity and diminished quality of life require added service from the Police department.

 

The Police Department recently attempted to gather data on the police response to homelessness in an effort to better understand the impact this issue is having on the Department and the community. Pinpoint accuracy of data related to this topic is difficult to achieve. There are differences in how homelessness is reported and many calls are handled proactively and informally by officers asking for voluntary compliance and cooperation (panhandling, trespassing, loitering, etc.). Although not perfect, the data below is useful in understanding the increased demands that issues related to homelessness has had on the Police Department in recent years:

 

·         Last year (2017), the Police Department handled and/or responded to over 3,000 calls for service that involved homeless or transient individuals. (1,030 year to date in 2018)

·         Over the past four (4) years, the number of reports generated has almost doubled from 683 in 2013 to 1,222 in 2017

·         The majority of the calls for service involved reports of a homeless person suffering from mental illness

o        The Police Department has also experienced a high number of interactions related to service of arrest warrants and public intoxication.

·         More than half of our homeless related calls for service are initiated in the Central Policing Area/Downtown

o        Other areas with a large population of homeless persons are the Irvington Area and the Isherwood Area

·         The peak of activity for calls involving homeless persons typically spikes at 10:00 AM and begins to decline at approximately 5:00 PM

 

In addition to the increase in number of calls for service throughout the City, the time involved for many of these calls also is time consuming due to inclusion of medical conditions, large volume of personal property, biohazard considerations, mental illness and substance abuse. 

 

While it is often perceived that a number of people experiencing homelessness do not want housing and choose to live on the street as a lifestyle choice, Fremont’s Point in Time Count indicates that only 6% of the homeless were not interested in housing. 67% of the homeless expressed interest in independent affordable housing, while 17% indicated they need housing with supportive services. Five (5%) percent wanted clean and sober housing and another 4% wanted board and care. Currently there are only three board and care facilities serving persons with mental illness in Fremont, and only one is licensed.

 

Given the limited efficacy of enforcement, City staff has had to make decisions about which homeless encampments should be addressed immediately based on a variety of factors and which are less disruptive and fall further down the priority order. Encampments involving public safety risks, including risks or threats to others or property, typically receive an immediate police or fire response to alleviate the immediate threat. Other encampments that fall under health and sanitation risks including proximity to waterways, illegal habitation/trespassing, and interference with lawful business are prioritized based on the individual circumstances at each site. Homeless encampments that are not interfering with the general public and are not creating an immediate danger are lower priority and do not receive the same level of enforcement attention.

 

The Isherwood Encampment: A Local Case Study

 

Addressing homelessness is both labor intensive and financially costly for the City. The City performs multi-departmental encampment clean-ups, every other week, in various locations throughout the City. A recent example of a more sizable encampment occurred on the City owned Isherwood parcel near Alameda Creek.

 

As part of an initial attempt to address the encampment in November 2017, many of the homeless were asked to relocate by the City and moved from the creek to the plateau of the Park, protecting sensitive areas near the creek. In an effort to keep the site clean of debris, a garbage dumpster was provided to the area and the homeless were provided garbage bags and asked to help maintain the cleanliness of the area. Since then, the creek has been restoring itself with the growth of vegetation and the return of various wildlife species (i.e. deer, pacific tree frogs, woodpeckers, songbirds and turkey vultures). Signs have since been added permanently to indicate no trespassing within 10-15 feet of the creek bed indicating the sensitive habitat areas.

 

Since November 2017, the creek for the most part has been free and clear of any trash and homeless encampments. However, the size of the encampment at Isherwood relocated to the plateau area more than doubled from 16 to 38 people from November 2017 through March 2018. Now more easily visible to nearby residents, complaints about the homeless increased.

 

In March, in response to neighborhood complaints, the City made an extensive effort to relocate the homeless persons living in Isherwood and to abate the area of all debris. Human Services social workers, with the assistance of the Police MET Unit, Code Enforcement, Environmental Services and Community Services providing logistical support, spent one and a half days in the field meeting with the 38 homeless inhabitants of Isherwood and assessing their most immediate needs. Some needed assistance with benefit applications such as food stamps, general assistance, MediCal and many were missing or had lost identification cards.

 

Isherwood campers were provided grocery store gift cards for food and also bus passes. They were told that the area was to be abated and that they would be offered a one week stay in a local hotel while they were in transition. The following week, Human Services spent two days transporting 28 homeless persons to five motels in Fremont and adjacent areas, depending on the needs of individuals, especially those who had jobs and needed to be near BART or work. The following week Human Services staff working with Abode Outreach Workers, worked with homeless individuals to complete needed service applications including assessment needed for future housing opportunities.

 

Once homeless residents were relocated from the site, contractors began removal of underbrush from the area and tree limbs were trimmed to a higher level. A significant amount of debris was also removed from the site by Environmental Services. The table listed below outlines the differences in the two cleanups over a four month window. The amount of debris removed on the plateau also doubled from 90 cubic yards to 180 cubic yards as part of the encampment debris removal.

 

Isherwood Summary Table

 

Date

Camps

Tents

Persons

Dogs

Abandoned Camps

Debris Removed (cy)

 

Cost of

Cleanup

November 2017

12

12

16

1

8

90

$7K

March 2018

20

26

38

3

4

180

$86K est.

 

The cost of the March Isherwood Clean-up Project involving many hours and multiple City departments and Abode Outreach workers is estimated to be approximately $86,000. This does not include additional planned vegetation/tree maintenance estimated to cost an additional $200,000. As of the writing of this report, the success of the City’s efforts remain unclear but it should be noted that Staff has received reports that homeless are again present at the site, which may mean new homeless residents have located to the site or potentially some of the previous homeless individuals have returned. Historically, many homeless encampments are reoccupied shortly after City clean-up efforts, which is common in other jurisdictions. The homeless encampment cleanup efforts are disruptive to the homeless and, from a practical standpoint, the disbursement of people results in simply relocating homeless individuals to other areas in the City or adjoining jurisdictions, which does not solve the underlying problem.

 

POTENTIAL STRATEGIES

 

As municipal agencies throughout the Bay Area and entire state grapple with this increasing challenge, new solutions begin to emerge including passing tax measures aimed at homeless services, committing more general fund resources and diverting existing resources towards addressing the homeless concerns. County and State efforts are also beginning to address the homeless crisis. Below is a summary of recent actions and ongoing efforts to address the homeless challenges including: additional sources of housing and homeless programming dollars; options to address homeless individuals with severe mental illness; better coordination amongst agencies; and efforts to more efficiently deliver services to those experiencing homelessness.

 

State of California Actions to Address Homelessness

At the State level, Sacramento passed two key pieces of legislation during the 2017 legislative session aimed at addressing homelessness and more legislation has already been introduced early in the 2018 legislative session. These statewide efforts will not solve homelessness but combined with efforts at the local level, they are expected to ease the homeless challenges. Below is a summary of these legislative efforts:

 

(SB 3) Veterans & Affordable Housing Bond Act – (2017) Places a $4 billion affordable housing and veterans housing bond on the statewide ballot in November 2018. If successful, cities and counties are eligible to apply for various programs valued at $2.85 million, including the Multifamily Housing Program, Infill Infrastructure Grant Program, Joe Serna Jr. Farmworker Housing Fund, Local Housing Trust Fund Matching Grant Program, CalHome/Self Help Housing and Transit Oriented Development Implementation Fund.

 

(SB 2) Building Homes And Jobs Act – (2017) Establishes a permanent source of funding for affordable housing. Fifty percent of the first year of funding is allocated to the California Housing and Community Development Department to assist persons experiencing or at risk for homelessness. After the first year, 70% of the funding will be allocated to local governments for a variety of uses including the development of affordable housing, matching funds for programs with similar goals and assisting persons experiencing or a risk for homelessness.

 

(AB 3171) Homeless Persons Services Block Grant – (2018) Establishes the Local Homelessness Solutions Program and creates an account of $1.5 billion of one-time matching funds for the purpose of providing funding to cities to create innovative and immediate solutions to the problems caused by homelessness. Funds could be expended for among other things, shelter diversion, rapid rehousing, and permanent supportive housing. The funds would be apportioned to each City based on the City’s most recent homeless population.

 

(SB 912) Housing: Homelessness Programs and Affordable Housing – (2018) Annually appropriates $2 billion from the State’s General Fund to the Department of Housing and Community Development. The bill would require $1 billion of that money to assist in new construction, rehabilitation and preservation of permanent and transitional rental housing for persons with incomes of up to 60% of the median income. The remaining $1 billion would be used to address homelessness and provide allocation of that money for grants to cities and counties for specified related purposes with.

 

(SB 1045) Conservatorship: Chronic Homelessness: Mental Illness & Substance Abuse Disorders – (2018) Expands current law to establish a procedure for the appointment of a conservator for a person who is chronically homeless and incapable of caring for the person’s own health due to acute and severe mental illness or severe substance abuse disorder, as evidenced by high-frequency emergency department use, high-frequency jail detention due to behavior resulting from the person’s severe mental illness or substance abuse disorder, or frequent placement under a 72-hour hold. The bill would authorize the court to appoint a public conservator or the director of a local agency who is responsible for addressing the homeless population in that county and require the conservatee be placed in supportive housing that provides wraparound services.

 

County Actions to Address Homelessness

 

More locally, the County of Alameda has been working to address the homeless issue throughout the County. As of the most recent 2017 Homeless Point-In-Time Count, Alameda County had 5,629 homeless individuals which represented an increase of 1,589 or 39% from the 2015 census.

 

Alameda County Coordinated Entry: This new program was implemented in Alameda County in January of 2018, as a mandated requirement of all jurisdictions receiving funding from the Federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The system establishes a method of screening and triaging homeless individuals in crisis who need shelter/housing. All homeless service and shelter programs funded with HUD dollars must now participate in this coordinated system. Homeless individuals/families are screened immediately for safety factors and then provided a more comprehensive assessment and are ranked according to vulnerability factors (i.e. chronic health issues, mental health status, age, years homeless etc.) with those most vulnerable being offered shelter/housing openings first as opportunities become available and are appropriate. The entry to this coordinated system is through the 211 system and assessment by outreach workers (through Abode Services) or at specific locations such as the Fremont Family Resource Center. Prioritization for housing, once a person is in the countywide system, is continuous and dynamic based on those with the highest needs, which may change as new persons enter the system. Six Housing Resource Centers have been established throughout the county to implement Coordinated Entry. To date, 133 homeless persons in the Tri-Cities have completed the assessment process and are in the pipeline to be considered for housing services. There is no guarantee that they will be housed if new individuals entering the coordinated entry system are ranked as more vulnerable in the County.

 

Whole Person Care Alameda County (AC3): In 2016 the County’s Health Care Services Agency was awarded a $140 million dollar grant to implement the whole person care pilot project. The goal of project is to build an infrastructure that will improve integration, reduce unnecessary utilization of health care services and improve health outcomes for homeless individuals and other “high utilizers” of health care services. With the understanding that individuals often need services across several departments and sectors, the AC3 vision is to create an integrated system across multiple systems that helps high need patients achieve optimal independence and health in safe and stable housing.

 

San Leandro Homelessness Summit: In February, Supervisor Carson convened a Homeless Summit in San Leandro to bring more awareness to the issue and begin the dialogue around identifying regional solutions and coordination in addressing homelessness within the County. The event was well attended by various stakeholders throughout the County and it will be important to have County leadership on the homeless issue given the transient nature of homelessness moving among jurisdictions.

 

Alameda County Measure A1: In recognition of the housing affordability crisis, in November 2016, Alameda County voters passed the Measure A1 Affordable Housing Bond that provides $580M million in additional housing funds to increase housing affordability for both homeowners and renters. The majority of the funds will go to the Rental Housing Development Fund which aims to create and preserve affordable rental housing for vulnerable populations including lower-income workforce housing. All proceeds will stay in Alameda County and it is estimated Fremont will receive approximately $33 million in direct City allocations and can compete for another $32 million targeted for the Tri-Cities to create and preserve affordable housing in Fremont. At least 20% of the affordable housing funded by Measure A1 must serve those with incomes below 20% of median, which means homeless persons may have access to some of the units constructed through this ballot measure.

 

Santa Clara County Measure A: Additionally, during the 2016 Election, Santa Clara County passed Measure A, a $950 million Affordable Housing Bond Measure. Although, this will not have a direct benefit to Alameda County, indirectly the addition of more affordable housing will benefit the entire region’s housing affordability.

 

Emerging Practices to Address Homelessness

 

Many communities throughout the State of California are experiencing much more significant homeless challenges than Fremont. Given the difficulty in addressing the many reasons for homelessness, there is no set of best practices for the City of Fremont to employ but many communities are experimenting with varying degrees of success. Staff believes it is valuable for the City Council to be aware of the following emerging practices by various City and County governments.

 

Managed Encampment Model: The City of Santa Cruz implemented the River Street Camp temporary four month managed encampment. On January 23, 2018, the Santa Cruz City Council declared a homeless shelter emergency, which enabled it to suspend any local and state health safety requirements that might hinder or delay the City’s efforts to mitigate the shelter crisis. The declaration also grants the City immunity from liability for ordinary negligence in provision of the emergency shelter.

 

The City of Santa Cruz used the declaration to establish a four-month temporary managed outdoor encampment at 1220 River Street, a fenced-in gravel City lot on the outskirts of Santa Cruz that was formerly used as a storage area. A great majority of campers were moved there from San Lorenzo Park, located 1.6 miles away in downtown Santa Cruz.

 

The camp has room for 50 campsites (approximately 62 people). The City provides tents on wooden platforms for uniformity, and campers set up sleeping bags and air mattresses. The camp has a shower trailer with eight separate showers for men and women. There are also portable bathrooms. Two 40’ shipping cargo containers are being used to store campers belongings, which minimizes sprawl around individual campsites. There is also a large tent for communal dinners and programming.

 

The City is utilizing a trauma-informed approach to care at the camp and requires all campers to attend a trauma workshop. Trauma informed care recognizes that previous traumas have a widespread and ongoing impact on a person and manifest itself in symptoms such as substance abuse, depression and anxiety. There are 27 campground rules, including prohibitions against drugs, alcohol and visitors. The only way for campers to access and exit the camp is a shuttle, which makes five round-trips a day. Walk-ins are not allowed. The Homeless Services Center is providing dinner each day.

 

The camp is staffed 24 hours a day. A Program Manager is on-site 5 days a week and has two assistant Program Managers for the other shifts. The City hired 11 full time employees who are part-time camp “hosts” to oversee the camp on a day-to-day basis. The City also hired First Alarm security to monitor the outside of the camp. The Santa Cruz Police Department has also set up a mobile command unit nearby. The total cost of the four month temporary encampment is approximately $400,000. The City provided $300,000. Santa Cruz County provided $100,000.

 

Oakland’s Tuff Shed Navigation Center Model:  The City of Oakland is in the process of implementing a Tuff Shed Navigation Center. On October 3, 2017, the Oakland City Council reenacted a previously active ordinance declaring a two-year shelter crisis in the City of Oakland, which enabled it to suspend any local and state health and safety requirements that might hinder or delay the City’s efforts to mitigate the shelter crisis. The declaration also granted the City immunity from liability for ordinary negligence in provision of the emergency shelter. The declaration was written to be in effect for two years, to align with the City budgeting.

 

In December 2017, the City used the declaration to establish a two-year managed “Safe Haven Outdoor Navigation Center” at the corner of Sixth and Castro streets. The site is a fenced-in lot, near the 980 and 880 Freeway interchange in downtown Oakland. The camp has room for 80 people residing in 40 tuff sheds. The City provides the sheds, as well as two cots for each shed. A private donor has also provided funds for residents to insulate their sheds. There is no electricity in the sheds. Residents must rely on battery-powered electricity. Pets are allowed and the City has constructed a dog run.

 

The cost of the 40 installed Tuff Sheds is between $117,000 (for 8’ x 10’ sheds) to $132,000 (for 8’ x 12’ sheds). The annual operating cost of the Navigation Center is over $500,000 a year. This includes $200,000 a year for Bay Area Community Services to provide housing navigation services; and $300,000 a year for Operation Dignity to provide site management services.

 

The City has appropriated over $1,000,000 over the next two years to operate the site. The goal of the project is to assist as many residents to find transitional and permanent housing as possible. The City has a goal of 3 navigation sites, pending the availability of additional funds from County and neighboring city (Emeryville) resources.

 

Landlord Incentive and Partnership Program: In a competitive housing market, landlords have been reluctant to accept tenants who have governmental subsidies to help offset their rental costs, such as Section 8 vouchers or Tenant Based Rental Assistance. Landlords often feel lower income or homeless persons will be difficult or disruptive tenants and that accepting such renters will mean more paper work. Even though governmental entities providing subsidies for housing, are a “sure bet” for receiving payments on time, landlords frequently indicate “they don’t want to take third party checks”. Between 2013 and 2018 the number of landlords who accepted Section 8 Vouchers dropped from 1,266 to 1,066. Fremont currently has approximately 26,000 housing rental units owned by 9,600 landlords. The number of Fremont landlords currently accepting Section 8 vouchers, or rapid rehousing or other governmental subsidies that help homeless families and individuals return to housing is approximately 50.

 

In San Leandro the City’s Human Services and Police Department partnered with Building Futures with Women and Children, a local non-profit service provider and the Rental Housing Association of Southern Alameda County, to form a compact to provide long-term housing and services to the chronically homeless in San Leandro. As part of the compact the Rental Housing Association provides 25 units for chronically homeless in San Leandro and Building Better Futures provides supportive services, to help prepare participants for success and independence. HUD Vouchers are used to help pay for the rent.

 

In Marin County an incentive program was established to encourage landlords to accept housing subsidies. Their program provides the following:

 

·         Up to $2,500 for a security deposit

·         Loss mitigation up to $3,500

·         Up to one month of rent to a property owner while repairing any excessive damage

·         A 24-hour hotline for landlords to call with immediate issues

 

Los Angeles County’s Homeless Incentives Program (HIP): This program recruits landlords to rent to homeless families/adults with federal housing subsidy who need permanent supportive housing by offering the following incentives:

 

·         Vacancy payments: provide landlords with payments to hold a rental unit for one to two months after a tenant with a subsidy has been accepted by the landlord and while the landlord is going through the HUD approval process.

·         Move-in assistance provides homeless families with transportation to visit available units, preparation for the rental process and financial assistance to cover the security deposit, utilities and other move-in costs.

·         Tenant assistance with credit checks and rental application fees: provides funding directly to the property owner to cover the cost of credit checks and application fees.

·         Damage claims: provides financial assistance to landlords to mitigate damage caused by tenants during their occupancy under the voucher programs.

 

Current City of Fremont’s Homelessness Response, Resources & Partnerships

 

Fremont’s current approach to homelessness consists of a balanced, cross departmental blend of City services and enforcement. The activities are coordinated internally by the City Managers’ Office led Homeless Policy Committee and Homeless Working Group which meets biweekly. Together, these teams support and coordinate a variety of short, medium and long term services including:

 

Code Enforcement: The City’s Code Enforcement division responds to citizen complaints and proactively identifies violations of the Fremont Municipal Code to preserve community health and safety. In conjunction with other City divisions, the Code Enforcement division comprised of six full time employees responds to citizen concerns in regards to various homeless related issues including encampments, debris accumulation and illegal habitation amongst others. In FY 2017/18, the City Council authorized one additional position solely dedicated to homeless issues in the community. Given the volume of associated work, it appears that adding an additional FTE is warranted in response to homeless issues increasing Code Enforcement Staff to seven FTEs with at least two FTE solely dedicated to homeless related citizen complaints.

 

Community Services: Environmental Services staff members within the Community Services Department are responsible for regulatory obligations. Stormwater discharged from Fremont’s municipal storm drain system is regulated by the Municipal Regional Stormwater Permit (MRP) issued and enforced by San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board (Water Board). This permit requires Fremont to manage the discharges of waste to receiving waters from non-storm drain sources such as homeless encampments. Consistent with permit requirements, the City submitted a Direct Discharge Plan to the Water Board on February 1, 2018 which included the following elements:

 

·         Overview of the homeless condition in Fremont including support programs and steps the City is taking to reduce the overall population

·         Mapping of known encampment locations and identification of sites posing the greatest risk for waterway pollution

·         Control actions that are being implemented to prevent or reduce discharges from these encampments in a systematic and comprehensive manner

·         Description of how the effectiveness of controls will be assessed, including documentation of controls, quantification of trash volume controlled, and assessment of resulting improvements to receiving water conditions.

 

The City has approximately 140 previously or currently active encampment locations, and a recent inspection showed at least 17 being active. Eighteen sites have been identified as priority waterway impact sites with the following five areas being the most vulnerable or heavily impacted by homeless encampments: Isherwood area, Stivers Lagoon, Niles Community Park, Alameda Creek and Granite Quarry Ponds. Consistent with the Direct Discharge Plan, the City has developed a monitoring and inspection program to address water pollution impacts from all homeless encampments which includes: a prioritized inspection schedule, weekly assessments, biweekly homeless encampment abatements, and implementation of encampment deterrents such as fencing and patrolling in sensitive locations. The City will be required to report on the status of this program annually to the Water Board as part of the MRP Annual Report.

 

Police Mobile Evaluation Team (MET) Team: Concerns about the homeless are one of the most common quality-of-life complaints from the Fremont public. The calls typically involve homeless encampments, those with mental illness and substance use issues, often combined with homelessness. Although, police do not necessarily have the correct resources or training to deal with the complex issues presented, police are the one entity available to the public any time of day. Fremont’s MET, still in formation, is comprised of one sergeant, two officers, and eventually two mental health clinicians.  Officers and clinicians will be paired and be the primary response units for calls for service involving a mental health component. These teams will also conduct follow up with community members who recently experienced a mental health crisis, in order to provide wrap-around services. In addition, these MET teams will handle calls for service involving homeless community members and provide follow up and resources. In addition Fremont’s Police Department is working with the courts to provide a Chronic Inebriate Program where those with long-time substance abuse issues can receive treatment and support in lieu of jail time.

 

Warming Center: This is the fifth year the City has operated a warming center at our Senior Center building for the homeless when the weather is very cold or wet. The Center is supported by a host of volunteers and community organizations, including City Serve who coordinates dinner and volunteers, Tri-City Health providing medical services such as flu shots and Hepatitis A shots and Abode Services offering housing assessments. This year the center was opened for 70 days serving 276 different homeless individuals ranging in age from seven (7) months to 79 years of age. The center provides dinner, breakfast, showers, cots and sleeping bags, clean clothing, health services and assessment for housing and other services. Fifty–eight percent of the participants consider Fremont their home. 78% of the population was comprised of Fremont, Newark, Union City and Hayward residents.

 

Stay Housed Program: This Program operated by our Family Resource Center is designed to help families avoid eviction and prevent homelessness due to a financial crisis. The program provides time limited (up to 24 months) rental subsidies for eligible participants. Participants work with a financial coach on managing personal finances, and work towards the goals of increasing income, decreasing debt, and improving credit through the FRC’s SparkPoint Program.

 

Mobile Hygiene Unit: The City was recently notified that the City will receive a $125,000 grant from the County to purchase and operate a Mobile Hygiene Unit with two restrooms and two showers (one ADA Accessible) and laundry facilities. The City will be partnering with the faith-based community and local non-profits as the mobile unit is rotated to different locations throughout the City on a weekly basis. The City also partnered with the City of Newark on the grant opportunity and the unit is planned to serve that city as well.

 

CAREavan Program: Organized by Union City, Union City Family Center and local community and faith organization, CAREavan provides families and individuals living in their vehicles who have registered in the program and are temporarily homeless a safe place to park and sleep overnight. Safe sites are offered on a rotational basis. Each is supervised and restroom facilities are provided along with other amenities such as showers, clothing and food pantries, dinner/breakfast service, Free Wi-Fi and computer use and washer and dryer access depending on the site. The CAREavan program averages less than 10 participants at any one time, though many individuals and families do rotate through in the course of a week. Homeless residents of Fremont are eligible to participate in the program.

 

City Serve Compassionate Network:  This program is a clearinghouse which serves approximately 70 local Christian congregations and over 27 social service agencies in the Tri-Cities area, providing help and emergency services to disadvantaged persons. The organization provides a vehicle for hundreds of volunteers who desire to help those in need by giving them well defined opportunities to make a difference in the lives of others.

 

Abode Services: This non-profit Fremont-based organization helps secure permanent homes for individuals and families experiencing homelessness. They utilize a “housing first” approach and tackle the issue on multiple fronts. They work with landlords to open up the rental market, manage government rental assistance programs, provide case management to ensure people can maintain housing and through their housing development arm, Allied Housing, they develop permanent supportive housing. Such projects in Fremont include Mainstream Village and Laguna Commons City Center Affordable Apartments currently underway on Fremont Blvd. Abode Services currently operates Sunrise Village, Fremont’s primary shelter facility, as well as several transitional housing programs. Abode is also the designated Housing Resource Center (one of six in Alameda County) working to implement the county’s new Coordinated Entry System. Founded in 1989 the program has expanded to serve Alameda, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, San Mateo and Napa counties providing housing and services to more than 6,100 persons.

 

Potential New City of Fremont Resources and Strategies to Address Homelessness

 

Staff has identified several practical options for Council and community consideration. Ideally, future action to mitigate the impacts of homelessness would consist of a combination of affordable housing, targeted staffing increases, local ordinance modification and medium- term service enhancements. Staff has also identified potential solutions which may be more difficult to administer but which may yield substantial community benefits and those options are also included below.

 

Continued Funding for Affordable Housing: The City continues to explore more affordable housing opportunities with existing affordable housing funding sources. Adding or supplementing existing staffing and homeless programs needs to be considered and weighed against other City priorities, especially with competing priorities for limited available new General Fund dollars. With that in mind, City Staff from various departments are recommending some initial steps that can be taken to improve the City’s response to homelessness in Fremont.

 

The City continues to pursue affordable housing opportunities and has accelerated its efforts to produce new affordable housing. The City currently has approximately 460 units of affordable housing under construction, including 90 for seniors. Most of these projects will be completed this year. Additionally, the City has provided initial funding for an additional 190 units of supportive housing, and several other affordable developments are in the discussion phase.

 

The City has three primary affordable housing funds:

 

·         Affordable Housing Fees from Development:  this is the primary source of locally-generated funds.  Under the City’s affordable housing ordinance, market rate residential developers have an option to pay fees to meet their obligations, and non-residential developers are now also required to pay an affordable housing fee.  The unobligated balance in this fund is about $40 million, although staff expects that projects in the current pipeline will be requesting $15-$20 million in outlays.  The amount collected annually varies with the amount of development and must be used for housing construction. 

·         City-Funded (commonly referred to as “Boomerang Funds”):  Council makes an annual appropriation to make up for the tax-increment housing set-aside that ended when redevelopment was eliminated statewide.  The annual appropriation is currently about $1.5 million.  This money is technically General Fund money, so it can be used with fewer restrictions than other sources. The current unobligated fund balance is about $2 million.

·         Low and Moderate-Income Housing Fund:  this fund consists of revenues the City collects from affordable housing investments made by the former Redevelopment Agency, primarily repayments of outstanding affordable housing loans.  Annual revenue varies. The current fund balance is $2.5 million. Use of the funds is governed by specific state law related to former RDA assets. 

 

In addition to local funds, the City can use federal CDBG and HOME funds to support affordable housing, and also for the next few years it will have access to Alameda County Measure A1 funds. There will also be a $4 billion affordable housing bond on the November 2018 statewide ballot that could provide additional resources for affordable housing. The City continues to look for opportunities to build affordable housing and is currently in a good financial position to take advantage of affordable housing opportunities as they arise.

 

At the time the City Council began the annual General Fund allocation for affordable housing as part of the FY 2013/14 Budget, the City did not have the variety of funding it does today for affordable housing. Additionally, the certainty of affordable housing funding was in doubt with the dissolution of the City’s Redevelopment Agency. Given the increase in current funding available from a variety of sources including Affordable Housing Fees from development, Low and Moderate-Income Housing Funds and Alameda County Measure A1 and the Homelessness challenges related to the affordable housing shortage, a policy decision for City Council consideration is to appropriate some or all of the ongoing annual General Fund allocation for affordable housing to address homeless needs in the community. Staff is recommending allocation of these funds due to the urgency of the homeless issue and the interrelatedness of the homeless and housing challenges. If the City Council were to choose to use the City-funded Affordable Housing Fund for homeless purposes, some potential uses are covered below. The other available source of funding for ongoing programs would be the City’s General Fund. The City Council recently set aside $750,000 in one-time monies which will be available for one-time costs.

 

As noted earlier in this report, the City’s homeless challenges are of a magnitude that can no longer be managed effectively within the existing staffing and service levels provided. Thus to the extent City funding is available, it is recommended that it be augmented with new staffing and resources dedicated to a more coordinated City response to the homeless situation.

 

The following is a list of potential options for Council consideration..

 

Increased Staffing: As part of the FY 2016/17 Adopted Budget, the City Council added one Code Enforcement Officer dedicated to the homeless as well as the Police Department’s MET to more appropriately address individuals experiencing mental health issues. Staff is now proposing the inclusion of four additional new ongoing staff members as part of the FY 2018/19 Operating Budget. The new positions would include a new Homeless Services Manager in the City Manager’s Office as well as an additional Code Enforcement Officer dedicated to homeless activities, a Park Ranger in Community Services, and a Human Services Case Worker who will work with the MET. The Homeless Services Manager position is critical to bring focus and leadership to the City’s ongoing and expanded efforts to address homelessness. The other positions mainly supplement existing services that are not able to keep up with the current activity levels in addressing various aspects of homeless response. The estimated ongoing cost of the proposed positions and supplies and services is approximately $650,000 to $700,000.

 

Modify Emergency Shelter Ordinance: The City could modify its Emergency Shelter Ordinance to make it easier for faith based organizations to assist with Winter Sheltering efforts of up to six persons per location. In meeting with leaders in the faith community, they believed that modifying the shelter ordinance with fewer restrictions and fee waivers would remove some existing barriers and encourage faith based organizations to continue to work on solutions to homelessness.

 

Expand Temporary Shelter Options for the Homeless: Consider expanding the warming center into a year-round temporary shelter program, which may require finding a new location for this operation. Because of the City’s large geographic reach, it may serve the City and the homeless population best to create several small temporary sheltering locations in different geographic areas throughout the City. Based on the experience of operating a Warming Center, small temporary shelters of no more than 40 persons would be recommended. Temporary shelter beds could also be offered as an alternative to homeless persons when encampments are being abated.

 

Create a Day Center: Homeless persons have indicated that one of the greatest challenges of living on the streets is lack of access to places for personal hygiene (showers) and laundry services. This is hard for all, but particularly critical for homeless persons who are working and needing to maintain a clean demeanor. A Day program, such as one offered in Walnut Creek and East Palo Alto provides access to showers, laundry, storage, lunch, computers, cell phone recharging, workshops and employment and training resources. Day centers can also help the homeless by providing a mailing address to receive important documents. Such a center could also provide space and tools to assist the homeless with bicycle maintenance, since this is the primary form of transportation for many.

 

Encourage local landlords to help be part of the solution to the housing problem: Offer monetary incentives for landlords to accept residents who have governmental housing subsidies which are available to assist lower income persons with rental payments.

 

Below are some additional options available to address Fremont’s homeless challenges in the short-term but they may be more controversial and/or more difficult to administer. As discussed in the Emerging Practices Section of this Report, the options below are currently being deployed in other cities in California and have shown success in those communities. To implement any of these programs will also require significant staff time and potentially cost and given this, Staff is seeking Council direction prior to proceeding with more analysis at this time.

 

Create Temporary Sanctioned Campground: Look at utilizing industrial land or sites away from residential areas where tent campers might be welcome with the provision of some amenities like a mobile hygiene unit for toilets and showers and garbage dumpsters. Provide Fire Department approved barbeque areas or deliver one meal a day to the site. An on-site monitor could be provided and the site would be easily accessible by police personnel. A contract could be awarded to an actual site operator to assist with connecting participants to needed services. Tents would be provided to deter makeshift shelter construction. In cities such as Santa Cruz and Oakland, areas are frequently fenced and residents sign in and out. In more remote areas a transportation shuttle could be provided to allow participants to connect with regular public transit and local medical and other services.

 

Create Temporary Safe Parking area for homeless persons living in cars/vans with on-site supervision: Offering one or two potential sites where cars and vans would be welcome and where they could safely park without having to move every three days. Sites could have on-site monitors. Participants would have to register, abide by rules, and be able to show a direct affiliation with Fremont such as working in Fremont, having kids going to school in Fremont etc. The program could also be modeled on Union City’s CAREavan model, rotating vehicles to different sites each night of the week.

 

Declaration of “A Shelter Crisis”: If the City Council were to provide staff with direction to allow for more short term and temporary places to allow 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 feels there is a “significant number of persons without the ability to obtain shelter, resulting in a threat to their life and safety”. This provides 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.


[1] Homelessness Task Force Report: Tools and Resources for Cities and Counties (www.ca-ilg.org/sites/main/files/homelessness_task_force_report.pdf)

[2] California’s Housing Future: Challenges and Opportunities (www.hcd.ca.gov/policy-research/plans-reports/docs/California%27s-Housing-Future-Full-Public-Draft.pdf)

[3] Homelessness Task Force Report: Tools and Resources for Cities and Counties (www.ca-ilg.org/sites/main/files/homelessness_task_force_report.pdf)

Document Comments

OPTIONS: Determining the best strategy for addressing homelessness in Fremont means making intentional choices, making strategic investments, and acknowledging the regional nature of the problem and solutions. This report is intended to provide a framework for our community to share in the analysis of our problem and for the City Council to direct City staff on the best allocation of resources. Staff is recommending the following potential actions:

 

1.              Allocate approximately $650,000 to $700,000 from the City-Funded Affordable Housing Fund, to add additional resources in the upcoming FY 2018/19 Budget including staffing new positions of Homeless Services Manager, Case Manager, Code Enforcement Officer, and Park Ranger.

2.              Modify the Emergency Shelter Ordinance for future Council consideration to allow faith based organizations to provide for temporary housing relief during winter months and consider waiving fees which may now be required.

3.              Explore identifying locations in Fremont to site a Day Center.

4.              Explore identifying year-round temporary shelter site(s) which may include existing or portable buildings.

5.              Establish an incentive fund to encourage landlords to take 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.              Consider options for alternative temporary housing models including: 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.