Council Mulls Use of Funds for Homeless

 

Alameda City Council authorized the interim city manager to work with the Alameda Social Services Human Relations Board to finalize the city’s Homeless Emergency Aid Program (HEAP) at its Jan. 15 meeting.

HEAP was established with the passing of California Senate Bill 850 on June 27, 2018. The program was established to provide California city governments a $500 million block grant to address homelessness. Alameda County will receive $16.2 million of the $500 million allocated. On Nov. 20, 2018, the Board of Supervisors for Alameda County approved Alameda to receive $756,524 in one-time funding to address the city’s homeless issues, according to a city memorandum.

Before the money is divided, 2.5 percent ($19,000) will be allocated for administrative costs. The remaining $736,524 will be divided into three categories. Ten percent will go toward rental subsidies and assistance, 20 percent for direct services and 70 percent toward capital improvement projects, according to Ana Bagtas, the city’s community development analyst. 

City staff gave the Council recommendations on how to spend the grant funds. For rental assistance the city would offer emergency motel vouchers and housing assistance programs. The city plans to partner with Fremont, Hayward, San Leandro and Union City to establish a mobile hygiene unit to provide direct services. The vehicle would be equipped with a shower and restrooms for homeless people to use. Councilmembers liked the idea but acknowledged the problem with sharing among five cities.

“Alameda possibly would get it just one day a week, I’m guessing, since we are one of five cities sharing it,” said Mayor Marilyn Ezzy Ashcraft. “But you can make due with using it one day a week. It’s better than not at all.”

Lastly, capital improvements involved building two public restrooms, one each on Park Street and Webster Street, for the homeless. However, many Councilmembers did not like this proposal. 
“It’s either going to become something that is built and homeless people are kept away from and so it just becomes a public amenity for shoppers, or it’s going to become a place where people congregate,” said Vice Mayor John Knox White.

Councilmember Jim Oddie said he would like to see more money go toward housing subsidies than bathrooms. The Council has the authority to approve projects that better meet the needs of the city’s homeless population.

Other services the Council discussed were a mobile laundromat, a drop-in center, laundry machines at Alameda schools and a sanctioned recreational vehicle and car parking lot for people who live in their vehicles.

Because the money is a one-time source of funding Councilmembers stressed caution in spending the money. 

“I do think we should think big about what are the real needs of the population that we have,” Councilmember Malia Vella said. “But we also need to recognize the constraints of this funding and think about how we are going to provide ongoing services.”

The city must match 30 percent ($225,000) of the HEAP funds to receive the money. All funds must be expended by June 30, 2021.

The City of Alameda has a homeless population of 204 according to the 2017 Alameda County Point-in-Time report.