Time is running out for homeless nonprofits that want to put one-time state funds from the Homeless Emergency Assistance Program to work in the next two years. The deadline to apply for HEAP funds is April 1.
Around $10 million will come into Monterey County, with around $2.8 million expected for services on the Peninsula. Two nonprofits—Gathering For Women and Community Human Services—are hoping to receive some of that money to transform a vacant county-owned property at 1292 Broadway Ave. in Seaside into a 50-bed homeless shelter.
With the state deadline looming, it was with urgency that leaders from the two agencies gave a presentation to the Seaside City Council on Feb. 27 on how they intend to serve homeless adults and children providing access to a wide array of services at an estimated program cost of around $540,000 a year.
“There is a great need for overnight lodging on the peninsula,” GFW Interim Executive Director Kate Daniels Kurz told the council. “HEAP funding will get us in the door.”
Of the nearly 1,000 homeless women GFW serves, 250 women identify themselves as Seaside residents, Daniels Kurz said. CHS CEO Robin McCrae reported that of the 3,000 people her agency serves annually, an estimated 300-400 are from Seaside.
“This is not a plan to import folks from other cities,” Daniels Kurz said. The shelter will most likely serve homeless who are already in Seaside, although it will be open to others on a first-come-first-serve basis.
The goal, said Kurz and McCrae, would be to give those served the tools to move out of homelessness with referrals to mental health and substance abuse treatment, job training, housing assistance and other services.
Since families would be sheltered there, there would also be after-school programs and other programs for children and their parents.
“We’re proposing a full-service shelter program—with an emphasis on program,” McCrae said.
Stays would be limited to 90 days, unless an individual or family is making progress and needs more time, with no stay lasting more than six months. Shelter residents would receive hot meals, mail service, laundry, Wi-Fi and other basics toward finding jobs and housing. Residents would not remain on site during the day, except when school is not in session.
The goal on Feb. 27 was to have the council agree to formally signaling to the county it supports the shelter plan.
Daniels Kurz and McCrae said they needed formal support in order for the county to begin working in earnest with them and so that GFW and CHS could confidently expend funds on architectural plans to be submitted as part of their application for HEAP funds.
Early on in the meeting, things seemed to be going well for the nonprofits. Angry residents who came out in force two weeks before, to attend a town hall meeting Feb. 13 on the subject of the shelter, were few.
Daniels Kurz and McCrae assured the council they were sensitive to community concerns. In one example, they said they would provide a phone number for residents to call with concerns at any time. They also agreed to make women and children a priority for sheltering, when pressed by councilmembers.
Most of the council seemed poised to move forward, but things got a little dicey for several minutes toward the end after Mayor Ian Oglesby initially balked at sending a formal letter to county officials, indicating that City Manager Craig Malin could simply make a phone call, instead. The nonprofit leaders, however, said they needed something more definitive.
Oglesby said he wanted to see architectural drawings first, and he wanted the entrance and address shifted around the corner, from Broadway to Olympia Avenue. He also wondered if the county could provide monies to help pay for renovations, above and beyond HEAP funds.
After assurances by City Attorney Don Freeman that an initial letter to the county was not going to commit the city to any specific plans—and pronouncements by the four other councilmembers that they wanted to send the letter—Oglesby agreed.
City Manager Craig Malin sent an email first thing the next morning to Assistant County Administrative Officer Nick Chiulos, noting Oglesby's desire for a change of address.
"Fundamentally, the Council is supportive of a shelter operated by Community Human Services/Gathering For Women, but wants the building to reflect a sense of quality, permanence and neighborhood compatibility," Malin wrote.
"The City would appreciate the County's financial participation in architectural improvements."
Malin told Chiulos the council expects to receive a final draft of the nonprofits' HEAP application later this month and will take a formal vote, "pending final details and architectural improvement plans."