For years, the Guadalupe River Path — a winding path that snakes by way of the center of downtown San Jose — had been dwelling to tons of of individuals dwelling in tents and make-shift shacks.
In latest months, many have vanished as a part of a $750 million-push by Gov. Gavin Newsom’s administration — dubbed the Encampment Decision Fund — to clear homeless encampments from cities all through California.
“The earlier than and after images are stark,” stated San Jose Mayor Matt Mahan. “You might have an space that was simply filled with trash and tents and RVs and belongings and graffiti. There have been actually chickens working round. And now it’s coming again to public use. Persons are beginning to stroll the path, bike the path, have a look at the river.”
However an evaluation of preliminary progress stories submitted to the state, in addition to interviews with early Encampment Decision Fund grant recipients, exhibits this system has had combined outcomes up and down California. Even in San Jose, it hasn’t met its overarching purpose of discovering everlasting housing for most people moved off the river path.
Greater than a 12 months after the checks went out, almost two-thirds of the $48 million awarded within the first spherical of statewide grants has been spent. The cash has paid for every little thing from shelter beds to case employees to safety deposits so folks dwelling in encampments may hire flats. However to date, solely three of the 19 jurisdictions that acquired funding reported utterly clearing their focused encampments. Almost 750 folks nonetheless lived in these camps as of the top of September, in line with the most recent information out there from the state.
The primary-round grants have to be spent by the top of June.
Even in cities and counties which have had success transferring folks off the road and into momentary shelters, it’s confirmed a lot tougher to seek out everlasting housing. San Jose used the state funding to maneuver almost 200 folks off the river path — a heavy elevate the town beforehand had been unable to perform. However simply 11% of these folks made it into everlasting housing. One other 37% moved into momentary shelter. The town doesn’t know what occurred to the others: Greater than half the folks relocated from the path are unaccounted for.
Throughout the state, tons of of people that had been moved out of encampments final 12 months and in 2022, utilizing state cash, nonetheless are in shelters, ready for a house of their very own.
“I feel what we’re actually seeing throughout the board and with this funding is it’s simply taking a lot longer to get folks into housing as a result of there’s a scarcity of reasonably priced sources,” stated Jennifer Hark Dietz, CEO of PATH, a homeless providers nonprofit that labored with San Jose and a number of other different cities to manage the grants.
From encampment to housing
As an alternative of merely shuffling unhoused folks from one camp to a different — as had been widespread observe for years — Newsom insisted this program would give attention to getting folks into housing. Cities and counties looking for funding should show they both will transfer encampment residents immediately into everlasting housing, or into momentary shelters with “clear pathways” to everlasting housing. The state rejected an utility from Chico as a result of its plan for everlasting housing fell quick, stated Chico Deputy Metropolis Supervisor Jennifer Macarthy.
However drawing a straight line from an encampment to a long-term dwelling is less complicated stated than completed.
Tulare, within the Central Valley, used its $1.6 million grant to clear 5 encampments the place about 100 folks lived. However it couldn’t provide you with sufficient beds for everybody, and as folks moved out of the camps, new folks stored exhibiting up.
As an alternative of discovering everybody a house, the town ended up giving 150 folks tents and transferring them right into a sanctioned encampment. As of December, solely 44 folks from the 5 camps had landed in everlasting housing.
However that’s no less than double the speed Tulare was housing folks earlier than it acquired the state cash, stated Housing and Grants Supervisor Alexis Costales, who describes this system as successful. Tulare gained one other $4.8 million within the state’s second spherical of encampment grants, and hopes that cash will get extra folks housed.
Los Angeles gained a $1.7 million grant, which put 45 unhoused folks up in a motel for a number of months. However motel rooms are costly, and by the point these funds ran out, solely about half had discovered everlasting housing, stated Hark Dietz. Six folks left this system, and the remainder moved into shelters, the place PATH continues to work with them to seek out housing.
Santa Barbara County is utilizing a part of its $2.5 million grant to open two new tiny properties websites which, beginning this spring, will present momentary shelter to dozens of individuals dwelling in encampments. Up to now county employees have reached out to about 200 camp residents, and introduced 81 inside. Of these, 52 made it to everlasting housing, stated the county’s Encampment Response Coordinator Lucille Boss.
“We couldn’t have completed loads of this with out the state’s funding,” Boss stated.
In San Jose, Mahan stated many individuals declined the town’s shelter beds. Considered one of them was Alicia Spangenberg. Outreach employees provided her a tiny dwelling, however the 27-year-old, who has been homeless almost 5 years, isn’t able to sacrifice her freedom and privateness to stay in a tiny dwelling with shared loos and observe this system’s guidelines.
“On the finish of the day,” she stated, “it’s whether or not anyone desires to be helped.”
California cities quickly could have extra freedom to clear homeless encampments if the Supreme Court docket strikes down a 2018 ruling that had largely tied their fingers. In Martin v. Boise, the Ninth Circuit Court docket of Appeals discovered cities can not punish unhoused folks for tenting on public land in the event that they don’t have any different choice — which cities interpreted to imply they will need to have shelter beds out there earlier than clearing a camp.
No matter what occurs in that case, Newsom’s administration has made clear that cities hoping to make use of state encampment decision funds should do greater than merely kick folks out of an encampment. They have to plan to “resolve the expertise of unsheltered homelessness” for the camp residents.
Because the grant cash runs out, some native leaders and repair suppliers fear the positive factors they made may be reversed with out further funding to maintain up the work they began.
It’s unclear when more cash would possibly materialize. Newsom’s proposed funds for the 2024-25 fiscal 12 months, launched this month, doesn’t suggest cuts to this system. However after the present spherical of almost $300 million— which cities and counties are making use of for now — is spent, there’s no new funding on the horizon. The state appropriated a complete of $400 million for this spherical, however about $100 million of that routinely went to cities that utilized final time however had been rejected due to inadequate funds.
“In case you are investing solely in an intervention that’s momentary, then the answer is momentary,” stated Sharon Rapport, director of California state coverage for the Company for Supportive Housing, who has criticized Newsom for refusing to supply ongoing funding for homelessness. “It’s not going to lead to decreasing homelessness. It’s simply going to lead to lots of people utilizing our shelter beds.”
And as with every aggressive grant program, many communities had been ignored of the preliminary rounds of funding.
When the grant program launched in 2021, Paramount — a metropolis of 5 sq. miles in Los Angeles County — jumped on the alternative. The small municipality made a small ask: $160,000 to clear a camp of about 30 folks alongside the Los Angeles riverbed and broaden the town’s shelter system.
The appliance was rejected with out a proof or any suggestions, stated Steven Coumparoules, Paramount’s group preservation supervisor. When he seemed on the cities awarded funding, together with Los Angeles, Oakland and San Jose, he concluded the state favored huge cities. It soured him in opposition to making use of once more.
However cash from the state may have made a giant distinction in Paramount, Coumparoules stated. There aren’t any shelter beds inside the metropolis limits, and the shelter up the street in Bell is full. The river stays a “hotbed” of homeless camps, he stated.
“The cleanups aren’t fixing the issue,” Coumparoules stated. “You’re sort of simply reshuffling folks from one location to a different.”
Chico, the place many refugees from the 2018 Camp wildfire stay homeless, requested the state for $1.9 million in 2021 to relocate about 150 folks from the banks of the Comanche Creek. Officers thought that they had made a superb case, and had been stunned once they had been rejected, stated Deputy Metropolis Supervisor Macarthy.
The state finally made more cash out there. However by that point, Chico had used metropolis funds to clear the creek, and the state wouldn’t let the town tweak its utility to safe funds for one in every of its many different encampments.
When the second spherical of grants opened, Chico utilized once more for a unique encampment. Once more, the town was rejected. This time, the state stated Chico’s plan to maneuver folks from the camp into everlasting housing fell quick.
With out state assist, the town spends about $4 million a 12 months on clearing encampments and transferring folks into shelters.
“I’d be mendacity if I stated this isn’t a burden on our group from our monetary perspective,” Macarthy stated. Metropolis workers plan to strive once more for a number of the $300 million out there now within the third spherical of grants.
“So,” Macarthy stated, “fingers crossed.”
Cash for beautification
Within the months since San Jose cleared the camps off of the river path, a handful of individuals have already got moved again. To fight that, the Guadalupe River Park Conservancy is utilizing $200,000 — 10% of the state grant — to rehabilitate the path. The conservancy has employed two park ambassadors who patrol the realm and report unlawful dumping and tents. The group is also experimenting with internet hosting garden video games and different actions to brighten up the path, and has plans to fee a mural.
The state has since modified its guidelines, and utilizing grant cash for these forms of ancillary bills is now not allowed. However with out that cash, it will have been unattainable to stop folks from coming again to camp, or to persuade group members — lengthy deterred by the tents — to return to the path for recreation, stated Jason Su, govt director of the conservancy. He worries in regards to the path reverting to its former state as soon as the grant cash runs out this summer time.
Rodney Scott, one of many remaining unhoused folks dwelling alongside the Guadalupe River Path, is hoping for a second likelihood. In 2022, the 36-year-old moved into one of many tiny properties the town makes use of as momentary shelter. It was nice, he stated: He may bathe every time he wished, and play Xbox on-line along with his son. However in almost a 12 months in this system, he by no means acquired off the waitlist for everlasting housing. Then, Scott stated he was kicked out of the tiny dwelling after getting in a single too many arguments with different residents.
Since then, he’s been dwelling in a tent exterior a Goal, hoping a housing placement will come by way of.
“It’s too chilly to be out right here proper now,” Scott stated. “I acquired coronary heart failure. So it’s like, am I going to die ready for an residence?”
Jeanne Kuang contributed to this story.
For the document: The wage of Lucille Boss, Santa Barbara County’s encampment response coordinator, is paid primarily by American Rescue Plan funds.