Hollister commits money to new homeless shelter

Fifty-bed facility is year-round, serves individuals

WARM INSIDE The new HOME Resource Center in Hollister is quiet during the day, but opens its doors as a shelter at 4 p.m. to up to 50 homeless individuals.

Hollister’s new year-round homeless shelter will get an influx of money from the city.

Last week, the Hollister City Council approved $129,000 towards the Homeless Opportunities Meals and Empowerment (HOME) Resource Center. Located on 1161 San Felipe Road, the 50-bed facility opened Dec. 1 and serves individuals. A family shelter, which is only open during the winter months, is located at the Migrant Center out on Southside Road.

Last month San Benito County officials asked the Hollister City Council for an annual allotment of $200,000.

“We’ve been coming to the city council for funding for the last two years,” said Enrique Arreola, deputy director of the county health and human services agency. “Last year when we came for the request we got $25,000 for the shelter. This year it’s a year-round shelter so the cost of operations is a lot more.”

Operation and maintenance costs for the HOME Resource Center are estimated at $615,710 annually.

“I don’t think any of us expected it to be for free,” Mayor Ignacio Velazquez said. “This is something that costs the community. Whether we put a dime in it or not, we’re going to be paying for this.”

He continued on to say homelessness is a foundational issue that won’t just go away.

“It’s one of those items that will always cost us dollars, but we can’t afford to just throw away people. That doesn’t work and that has to change.”

During the last regional homeless census on Jan. 25, 2017, canvassers identified 527 homeless people in San Benito County, with 23 percent sheltered and 77 percent unsheltered. Ninety-four percent—403 individuals—were considered chronically homeless, meaning the person has a disabling condition and has been continuously homeless for a year or more or has experienced four or more episodes of homelessness within the past three years.

In San Benito County, 81 percent of those surveyed were over the age of 25 and 56 percent were male. Ninety percent were county residents before they were made homeless. Seventy-three percent said their main obstacle to permanent housing was not being able to afford rent.

Councilwoman Mickie Luna asked how much of the $200,000 would go to administrative fees.

“Admin is a small fraction,” said Arreola. “I’d need to refer to the budget, but I’d say no more than 10 percent. The majority of funding is for staffing. We need two staff members on every shift, security, meals provided and other services.”

Future plans for the HOME Resource Center include adding training, services and a kitchen, as well as eight to 10 units of transitional housing.

The final vote was 3-2, with Velazquez and Luna dissenting.

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