Monterey County will get $3.38 million in funds for homeless programs and will not have to reapply for another round of Homeless Housing Assistance and Prevention Funds, thanks to being one of the counties with the best records for tackling the issue. This news came out of a meeting between county and city leaders and Gov. Gavin Newsom on Friday, Nov. 18.
Newsom announced Nov. 3 that he was withholding over $1 billion in HHAP funds to all counties and large cities because collectively they were only projecting a two percent decrease in homelessness by 2024. He called a meeting of leaders in Sacramento and over Zoom for Nov. 18.
The announcement caused concern in Monterey County—projecting a 25 percent decrease, one of the largest in the state—where officials had already allotted $3.38 million of the promised HHAP funds to multiple programs including shelters, supportive housing projects and rapid rehousing programs.
During the Friday afternoon meeting, leaders learned that those counties that were on track, like Monterey, would get their money as early as the week of Thanksgiving, and they would not have to reapply for the next round of funding—a significant savings in staff time. Other counties were asked to commit to improving their homeless action plans by Nov. 29 in order to receive funding.
Mary Adams, chair of the Monterey County Board of Supervisors, who participated in the meeting virtually, describes the beginning of Newsom's conversation with leaders as frank one.
"I was really pleased with it," Adams says. "Internally at the county we are in agreement that more needs to be done to combat homelessness throughout California."
The intent of the county is to be as aggressive as possible in addressing homelessness, she says, and that's been borne out over the last few years with a 28 percent decrease since 2017 in official Point in Time counts of people who are unhoused.
"I think we're doing a far better job because of the way we've approached this," says Adams, adding that she shared with other leaders that it's because of effective collaboration between the county, cities, homeless service organizations and the region's Continuum of Care, also known as the Coalition of Homeless Service Providers. The continuum includes San Benito County, and is recognized by the state as the agency responsible for receiving state funds for the region.
Adams also credits such efforts as financing a fair market rate analysis that increased what the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development will provide for rent vouchers, thereby increasing the chances of voucher holders to find apartments.
Another initiative to improve the intake system that connects people to homeless and housing services contributed as well, she says, along with the creation of a mobile case management program that sends case managers to homeless encampments to connect people with services.
In a press release, Newsom called the meeting "an important conversation that allowed us to speak with candor and to share some good ideas with one another.
“Local leaders talked about the need for more city-county collaboration, more land use reforms to build housing faster, and to focus on keeping people housed who may be on the brink of homelessness—these leaders are our partners, and we all recognize we’re in this together," he said.