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NorCal homelessness program searching for leadership after Shasta County departure

San Francisco police officers wait while homeless people collect their belongings. Nearly a quarter of the country's homeless population lives in California.
Ben Margot
San Francisco police officers wait while homeless people collect their belongings. Nearly a quarter of the country's homeless population lives in California.

Shasta County left the role of lead agency for the Northern California Continuum of Care last week. The program provides hundreds of thousands of dollars in federal funding to address homelessness in the region.

The Continuum of Care is a federal program mandated by the Department of Housing and Urban Development that aims to address homelessness through local partnerships. The decision for the county to leave was made by the Health and Human Services Agency Director for financial reasons. The Northern California Continuum of Care also includes Lassen, Plumas, Sierra, Siskiyou, Del Norte and Modoc counties. Now that Shasta County left its leadership role, the group is searching for someone to take over so the region can maintain access to hundreds of thousands of dollars in funding. JPR’s Jane Vaughan spoke with Redding’s Community Development Manager Nicole Smith about the future of the Northern California Continuum of Care.

Jane Vaughan: So we're talking about the Northern California Continuum of Care, which includes seven counties in this region. First, can you summarize what the Continuum of Care is and what it does?

Nicole Smith: The Continuum of Care is essentially a collaboration of nonprofits, local businesses, government agencies, volunteers that come together and try to determine what services and housing options are needed to serve the homeless population in our communities.

JV: Okay, great. So Shasta County was the lead agency for this region for this Continuum of Care. But they recently left that role. And so the problem is the annual Housing and Urban Development application is due on September 28th. And the Continuum of Care has to complete that to get federal grant funding. So Redding is going to take over the application part. How does that work?

NS: What we've done is we've hired a consultant that has done this process before and has a lot of knowledge and has actually helped our continuum complete this application previously in 2018. So it was really a great match. She had a lot of the information from the previous time serving as our consultant. And so really that's going ahead full steam right now, collecting information, putting things together on the renewal applications. We have a lot of knowledgeable staff and the consultant as well is very knowledgeable. I don't think we're gonna have a problem with getting this in on time.

JV: That's good. So how much does it cost for the city to complete the application, and where does that money come from?

NS: Well, what has happened during this process of communicating with the executive board, luckily, there were some HHAP3 funds that were available to assist with obtaining a consultant and to assist with the payment of staff time for our city of Redding staff that's working on this project. And so luckily, we have those funds, and the collaborative application in the scheme of things is not the biggest part of what actually happens with the Continuum of Care and where the need for labor is. It's really a small part of a bigger picture.

JV: Okay, so talking about that bigger picture, besides the application, there's a lot of other responsibilities that the lead agency has. So the Continuum of Care now needs to find someone to take those on now that Shasta County has left that role. So I understand there's a nonprofit, the United Way of Northern California is going to take over the administration part of the Coordinated Entry System and the Homeless Management Information System. Are there other responsibilities that you're still looking for someone to manage, or what might that look like long term?

NS: Really what's happening is the executive board needs an administrative lead to assist them with a lot of the putting meetings together, doing minutes, facilitating trainings for those folks involved in the continuum. And also they need an entity that can act as a pass through for grant funds. And so the city of Redding is looking at helping out the continuum on an interim basis with those duties as well.

JV: Nicole, thank you for speaking with me today.

NS: Thank you very much. Thank you for your time on getting the word out with regard to the NorCal Continuum of Care. Thank you.

Jane Vaughan is a regional reporter for Jefferson Public Radio. Jane began her journalism career as a reporter for a community newspaper in Portland, Maine. She's been a producer at New Hampshire Public Radio and worked on WNYC's On The Media.