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League of California Cities

El Centro, Lake Elsinore, San Jose, and South Lake Tahoe are first cities to receive Homekey funding

On Sept. 16, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced that four California cities — El Centro, Lake Elsinore, San Jose, and South Lake Tahoe — are among the first recipients of funding under Homekey, a statewide program designed to house those experiencing homelessness.

California’s nation-leading $600 million Homekey program provides funding for cities and other public entities to purchase and rehabilitate housing — including hotels, motels, vacant apartment buildings, and other properties — and convert them into permanent, long-term housing for people experiencing or at risk of experiencing homelessness.

El Centro: Serving former foster youth college students experiencing homelessness

An innovative project in El Centro will build 13 tiny duplexes to provide two years of permanent housing for 26 students experiencing homelessness in the community who are also former foster youth. The city was awarded $3,024,114 for the project, Living Rise Above Resilient Community, which is a partnership between the city, Imperial Valley College (IVC), and the Imperial Valley College Foundation. In addition to creating housing, the project will provide case management and wrap-around services for these youth who are exiting the foster care system.
 
“This tiny home community will primarily house homeless youth who are pursuing higher education at IVC because they believe that through education, their lives will change,” said Imperial Valley College President Dr. Martha Garcia. “Collectively in Imperial County, we are committed to helping those that have the greatest barriers in life.”
 
The housing project in El Centro is located in the county hardest hit by COVID-19, with four times the per capita national average of cases, including a large number of farmworkers.

Lake Elsinore: Ensuring enough services, housing, and shelter beds for everyone who needs it
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The City of Lake Elsinore was awarded $3,136,000 to acquire, rehabilitate, and operate a former motel to provide 14 interim transitional housing units for up to 28 residents. The city has been working hard to get residents off the streets and since 2018, they have seen a 33 percent decline in their “point-in-time” homelessness count. Over the next two years, this funding will help the city achieve its goal of “functional zero” for chronic homelessness.
 
In partnership with the Lake Elsinore Sheriff's Station and Social Work Action Group, the city will use its remaining Homeless Emergency Aid Program funding of $1 million to provide operations, case management, and supportive services.
 
Lake-Elsinore-SWAG-housing-homeless.png“Our approach, ‘One Team, One Dream,’ is a community-based effort supported by law enforcement and city leaders that empowers the community to work together to truly make a difference,” said Social Work Action Group Executive Director Monica Sapien. “The state’s gracious award of Homekey funds is the latest in a series of blessings that is going to allow us to further our efforts and end chronic homelessness in Lake Elsinore.” 
 
South Lake Tahoe: Housing individuals experiencing homelessness during the pandemic and harsh Tahoe winter
 
South Lake Tahoe was awarded $9,576,000 to acquire four projects totaling 82 units for those experiencing homelessness. El Dorado County currently does not have a year-round shelter or permanent supportive housing. Together, the Tahoe projects will help get the Tahoe Basin to its goal of “functional zero” for chronic homelessness over the next two years.
 
“The vision, scope, and resources dedicated by the Governor to Project Homekey are exactly what's needed to solve the complex issue of homelessness,” said Tahoe Coalition for the Homeless Executive Director Cheyenne Purrington. “Homelessness is a symptom of many systemic challenges, including lack of affordable housing and access to preventative healthcare. In the freezing alpine climate of the Tahoe Basin, unsheltered homelessness can cause illness, injury, and even death. Project Homekey will provide a game-changing platform to actually solve the key underlying issues: housing and healthcare.”
 
The Tahoe Coalition for the Homeless will own and manage the properties as interim housing, occupying them immediately to ensure residents experiencing homelessness are sheltered and supported during the pandemic and the cold Tahoe winter.
 
“Compassion is the best reason to solve homelessness, but it's also a really wise investment,” continued Purrington. “Communities all over the state and country incur significant 'invisible costs' related to unchecked homelessness, including first responder transport, emergency room visits, hospital stays, rehab and recovery, law enforcement, probation, environmental cleanup, and countless other public and nonprofit interventions. Cities that invest in supportive housing end up saving millions of dollars, which can then be diverted back into affordable housing and preventative services. That's common sense and good business.”
 
San Jose: Project Roomkey property to become permanent housing
 
The City of San Jose was awarded $14,516,000 to turn a 76-unit property currently operating as a Project Roomkey project into permanent housing. This project located just 0.1 miles from light rail transit, will operate as a non-congregate shelter for the duration of the COVID-19 emergency, with a plan to convert it to permanent housing. Rehabilitation can be done without displacing the occupants.
 
“In 2016, we launched an effort to rehabilitate deteriorating motels to get more of our homeless residents off the street. Now, with Homekey and the Governor's leadership, we're able to move 77 more homeless individuals off the street, into a motel that we're purchasing with the Homekey money,” said San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo. “We're so grateful for the Governor's leadership, to be able to expand our efforts to house more of our San Joseans.”
 
Nearly $76.5 million was awarded by the Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD), in this first round of funding. Funding was allocated for 10 projects in seven California communities including Contra Costa, Kern, and Mendocino counties. These projects, which total 579 units, and future Homekey awardees must complete their purchases by Dec. 30.
 
This story was featured in the CA Cities Advocate Newsletter on Sept. 23, 2020.
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