County asks for homeless shelter funds

Opening set for Dec. 1 with room for 50 beds

A look inside on of many shelters used by the homeless along the river bed.

San Benito County officials approached the Hollister City Council Monday night to ask for $200,000 annually to help maintain the new HOME (Homeless Opportunities Meals and Empowerment) Resource Center.

The following day at the San Benito County Board of Supervisors meeting, supervisors approved a one-year contract with Monterey County-based nonprofit Community Homeless Services to operate and manage the HOME Resource Center, which has a grand opening date of December 1.

Supervisors approved paying $100,000 upfront at the request of the nonprofit, with some reservation.

The total cost to operate and maintain the year-round homeless shelter is estimated at $615,710 annually.

County Health and Human Services Director James Rydingsword reported on a three-phase construction project for a year-round homeless shelter at 1161 San Felipe Road during Monday night’s council meeting.

The first phase of the homeless shelter—which includes sleeping areas with a total of 50 beds, bathrooms, an office, lobby and dining space—is near completion. The second phase, which will provide a kitchen, training, and services, is estimated to be finished by next summer.

An additional third phase would add transitional housing.

Some council members were taken aback by the request.

“I’ve been on the council for almost three years,” Vice Mayor Karson Klauer said. “This idea started before I came on and this is the first time I’ve heard the idea that the city would fund any part of it.”

He explained he had to weigh all the options the city could spend that money on.

“It’s surprising to me that three weeks before it opens that now we’re talking about how to pay for it,” Klauer said.

City Manager Bill Avera explained that any funding for the homeless shelter would come from the general fund until the city could apply for funding sources.

Mayor Ignacio Velazquez said that taking care of the homeless problem in the city would cost money.

“Until we have a full-time facility we’re going to have problems,” Velazquez said. “Even then, that won’t solve everything. But it’s a start. If we ignore this problem, it will grow on us.”

He thanked Rydingsword and the county for partnering with the city on the project, which has come to fruition after nearly four years of work.

“A lot of communities are still trying to figure out what to do,” Velazquez said. “It’s not free. It’s going to cost us money, but the cost of doing nothing is much more than $200,000. If we can do that, we’ll save the city quite a bit of money. It’s part of what we need to do as a community.”

County supervisors also had some questions at their Tuesday meeting.

“Is this kind of an industry-wide type of thing that we anticipated?” Supervisor Anthony Botelho asked. “Usually I like paying after the work is performed rather than give a lot of money up front.”

Rydingsword said he’d experienced that on other contracts.

“This is something I’ve had experience with on other contracts, particularly when you’re dealing with community-based organizations, who often can be faced with a cash flow issue, to help them get started,” Rydingsword said. “It’s recouped over the first year so everything is evened out. We’re trying to work with Community Homeless Solutions so they’ll hit the ground running as soon as the doors are open.”

The one-year contract with Community Homeless Services, the sole responder in a competitive request for proposal process, will give the county a chance to look at how the nonprofit performs.

Rydingsword calmed the county board’s fears of a chance of the contract not working out with the new homeless shelter.

“I think it will pan out because this is an organization with 20 years of experience in the business,” Rydingsword said. “I feel very comfortable that they’ll be good and we’re going to want to keep working with them.

“However, if something were to happen we would go out for another request for proposal,” he said. “If that were not to occur we would come back to the board and present a proposal to make this shelter run with county staff. We’d prefer not to do that for a number of reasons, but those are the options we’d be looking at if that were the case.”

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