HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT HOMELESSNESS IN YOLO COUNTY
It’s estimated that there are 29.4 Yolo County residents who are dealing with homelessness for every 10,000 residents countywide.
In Woodland, that number is higher — 39.4 homeless residents for every 10,000, according to the most recent count, which was completed in January 2019.
The count, which is conducted on one night every two years, was supposed to happen in January of 2021 but was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The county plans on doing a full count in January of 2022.
In total, there were about 655 homeless residents counted during the 2019 count, with nearly 400 unsheltered. “Many individuals and families move in and out of homelessness during the course of a year, meaning that the actual number of people experiencing homelessness in 2019 will be much higher than the numbers included in this report,” the report explained.
Woodland had the highest homeless count in the county with 238. In comparison, Davis had 190 and West Sacramento had 192. A total of 35 homeless individuals were counted in Winters and the unincorporated areas, according to an April presentation given to the Board of Supervisors by Ian Evans, the adult and aging branch director with Yolo County’s Health and Human Services Agency.
The number of people experiencing homelessness does not match up with the number of shelter beds available. Davis has 120, West Sacramento has 63 and Woodland has 75.
In order to achieve “functional zero” homelessness — measured by the number of permanent housing minus the number of people experiencing homelessness — the county will need to increase its permanent housing slots.
In 2019, the county submitted its plan to address homelessness, which listed the following major goals: “strengthen the homeless crisis response system with an emphasis on developing prevention services, increase affordable housing options for the most vulnerable, stabilize and maintain physical and behavioral health for those with the highest needs, and examine systems-level coordination and identify opportunities for improved partnership.”
There are multiple upcoming projects within the county to address homelessness. Davis is working to build an additional 50 units, West Sacramento is looking to build 115, and Woodland will be adding 61 permanent housing spots near the East Beamer Way shelter, which is located on East Beamer Street. It opened in January with the ability to house 100 people at full capacity. The shelter is owned by Friends of the Mission, and operated by Fourth & Hope.
“So the future, what it will look like out here is really a hub of hope, we’ll call it,” said Doug Zeck, the executive director for Fourth & Hope. “A place that if someone’s in crisis and finding themselves unhoused, they can come here, they can access shelter services, day services, and then connect with case managers and potentially be navigated into the 61 permanent supportive housing units.”
The 61 units will be fully constructed to the California Building Standards For Housing, according to Zeck, and will be built as duplexes. Each unit will be around 400 to 500 square feet. Zeck said that ground could be broken for the project as early as next month.
The “hub of hope” includes both the shelter and the permanent housing units and sits on about eight acres of land. In the near future, it will also house the new Walter’s House, a residential substance use disorder treatment center operated by Fourth & Hope. Space at Walter’s House will increase from a capacity of 44 to 60, according to Fourth & Hope’s website.
The 2019 Homeless Count found that, of those surveyed, 27% of people dealing with homelessness admitted to suffering from a substance use disorder.
The current building that houses Walter’s House will be turned into an emergency shelter for families with children.
A community center and a garden will also be added onsite at the East Beamer Street property, and a new building will be built to house the laundry facilities, restrooms, kitchens and administrative offices for the shelter.
The Woodland Police Department’s Homeless Outreach Street, which coordinates with other programs to both clean up the city and offer resources to the unhoused in Woodland, works with the East Beamer Way shelter to house people in Woodland. Sgt. Victoria Danzl noted that it can take a while to help someone accept the resources available to them.
“People have to be capable internally to receive that resource at that time,” Danzl said. “So the reason that we continue to work with people over and over and over, is it may not be time one or time two or time three that we offer those resources that the person is capable or willing to accept it. Frequently, it takes us a long timeframes and a history with the person and then rapport building, in order for them to be at a point that they trust us or they are comfortable, or they even believe in the services that we’re offering them.”
HOST is helping move people out of the state’s Project Roomkey program — which housed people in motels in order to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 — in Woodland.
During a Board of Supervisors meeting in May, Evans explained that Project Roomkey will be ending, and gave the supervisors the ability to choose between three options: shutdown the program entirely on June 30, extend the program as-is or extend the program with fewer rooms.
County staff recommended the Board of Supervisors authorize them to talk with cities to develop a cost-sharing agreement that would start after June 30 where the county would pay half the cost, $237,500, and cities would pay their proportion of the rest of the cost. For Woodland, the program would amount to about $88,350 a month.
The city of Woodland did not end up choosing to split that cost.
“We have been informed that the city of Woodland will end their program on June 30 and are actively working with the jurisdiction and service providers onsite to ensure any housing plans come to fruition for folks before then, others will likely return to the shelter on East Beamer Way and all parties are working actively with Fourth & Hope on that piece,” Evans stated.
West Sacramento and Davis agreed to let the program continue until at least July 31. The county is working to examine Gov. Gavin Newsom’s budget and develop long-term plans in the meantime.
The city of West Sacramento was awarded grants by the state to develop Project Homekey — an expansion of Project Roomkey that helped local entities develop interim or permanent housing for its homeless population.
About 80 people have moved into permanent housing through Project Roomkey, according to Evans.