As the Chair of the County Task Force on Homelessness I am often asked what I am doing to help alleviate this crisis. First, I tell them that we are not alone and that no County in California is immune to Homelessness. The State has also realized this and is making funding available to address this crisis.
We see County services as a critical component of any homeless effort. The task force has adopted a true interagency approach with a group of stakeholders ranging from city officials, homeless service providers, law enforcement, faith community, and other important stakeholders.
We have used this group as a vehicle to facilitate several collaborations and are currently preparing to launch a strategic planning effort to guide long-term efforts and clearly define the roles of every stakeholder at the table.
The Board of Supervisors directly supports a number of the new initiatives. Most recently, the County contributed funds to the Visalia Warming Center at St. Paul’s Church, the only low barrier shelter option for the homeless community in Tulare County.
Additionally, we have pledged $75,000 to the Kings/Tulare Homeless Alliance’s Landlord Mitigation Fund, which is critical for increasing local housing stock for the homeless housing programs.
We have appointed a Homeless Initiative Program Coordinator, Charles Felix, who has done a tremendous job of pulling together stakeholders, resources and potential funding.
Tulare County administers a robust safety net for low-income individuals, including Medi-Cal, Women Infant and Children (WIC), and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). We offer over a dozen programs in the area of significant housing and housing assistance to the homeless community.
In addition, we provide supportive services that are critical for people to maintain housing stability, including mental health and alcohol and other drug services.
We work hard to help prevent individuals that are at-risk of homelessness from actually becoming homeless and estimate that the point-in-time homeless count would be far greater without the availability of our County services.
Additionally, the County has implemented a ride along pilot with the Visalia Police Department in which a social worker rides with the HOPE team and helps connect people with a range of support services.
All of these initiative and programs are being driven and put into place by you, the hard working employees of Tulare County, and our community partners and stakeholders.
So the next time someone asks me what am “I” am doing to alleviate the homeless crisis, I will tell them everything “YOU” are doing. Keep up the good work Tulare County!