By Daniel Borsuk
Perhaps by this time next year, Contra Costa County officials will be offering MicroPADs as a new alternate form of housing in its repertoire of programs designed to reduce homelessness, a major economic and social issue that is, at least in this East Bay county showing signs of fading away.
The number of homeless individuals in the county declined seven percent from 2016 to 1,607 homeless persons as of Jan. 25, 2017, an annual report stated and accepted by the supervisors on a 3-0 vote at Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting.
Board chair Federal Glover was absent due to a death in the family and Supervisor Diane Burgis of Brentwood was absent because she was recovering from a surgical procedure.
The county’s success in decreasing the number of homeless individuals or families living outdoors or in cars can be credited to the county’s wide array of federal and state funded programs and services worth $15 million last year. Those services range from emergency shelters, support services only, transitional housing, rapid rehousing, permanent supportive housing, street outreach and preventive programs.
Next month the county expects to learn how much money it will receive from the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development in its newest service designed to further drive down homelessness – the MicroPAD, said Lavonna Martin, Director of Contra Costa County Health, Housing and Homeless Services.
The MicroPAD miniature, stackable home is a relatively new weapon in the fight against homelessness. It is now in use in San Francisco, a city and county well known for its high cost of housing and homeless population problems.
Each 160-square foot modular prefabricated dwelling unit comes with a furnished bedroom, private bathroom, and kitchenette. In Contra Costa, in order for a homeless individual to be eligible to occupy a MicroPAD he or she would have to pay 30 percent of their monthly income (i.e. SSI) towards rent, said Martin.
Contra Costa County could have as many as 50 MicroPADs available for eligible homeless persons.
Supervisors wanted to know if a site had been selected to place the MicroPADs, but the county homeless director said that a site has not been selected even though the county and City of Richmond were co-sponsoring a presentation at the same time the Board of Supervisors meeting was in session. At the Richmond Civic Center presentation, a MicroPAD was on display for the public to see. A similar MicroPAD presentation was conducted on Wednesday at the Richmond Civic Center.
District 1 Supervisor John Gioia of Richmond was slated to appear at Tuesday’s civic center presentation following the board meeting.
“We do not have a site set yet,” Martin told supervisors. “We’ll be working on that over the next few months.”
“It’s going to be challenging to find the right location,” acknowledged Gioia. “The homeless will not get off the street if you offer them shelter, but this (i.e. MicroPADs) will get them off the street because it is housing. The challenge will be finding an appropriate location.”
Supervisor Candace Andersen of Danville was also supportive of the MicroPAD concept that the county is pursuing. “What can we do to effect a positive situation?” she asked. “I am excited about the MicroPAD program with its small units and the support services that will be available for occupants.”
Supervisors Accept Winter Storm Preparedness Report
During the Tuesday meeting, Supervisors also approved a report that the county is prepared for whatever amount of rainfall this winter season will bring. The report on Winter Storm Preparedness in Contra Costa County was presented by Tim Jensen of the Public Works Department.
The report highlighted Walnut Creek Intermediate School’s “Stay Out Stay Alive” publicity campaign to warn students and the public about the dangers of Walnut Creek especially when it is full of raging water during a major rain storm. Two years ago, two persons died when they fell into the rain swollen creek that that bisects the school.
The report also informed the public about the county’s sand bag stations, media outreach, newsletter, and flood control district webpage – http://www.cccounty.us/5906FloodPreparedness