Contra Costa Adding Resources to Combat Rise in Homelessness During Pandemic
Monday, May 16, 2022
Editor's Note: A detail in this media release was changed after publication to correct a data error.
An annual survey of homelessness in Contra Costa County found significantly more residents without housing in 2022 than three years ago, underscoring a severe shortage of affordable housing and the collateral impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic in the community.
During the three years since its 2019 homeless point-in-time count, Contra Costa Health (CCH) and community partners have added hundreds of shelter beds across the county – a 30% increase – including the 172-room Delta Landing interim housing center in Pittsburg, one of the first projects completed through the state's Homekey program.
The county's 2022 point-in-time count, meanwhile, estimates that 3,093 people are staying in shelter beds or living outdoors on an average night in Contra Costa, compared to 2,295 in 2019.
"Contra Costa is using every available resource to address the need for both interim and permanent housing. But the housing crisis has only gotten worse during the pandemic, both here and across the state," said Karen Mitchoff, chair of the Contra Costa Board of Supervisors. "We do not need a survey to know that more county residents are living on our streets."
Renters in Contra Costa needed to earn $37.54 hourly to properly afford the county's average asking rent of $1,952, according to a May 2021 report from California Housing Partnership, which also estimated an affordable housing shortfall of more than 27,000 units in the county compared to need.
Eviction moratoriums helped some residents remain housed during the pandemic, but COVID-19 disrupted work for many residents. Some with already unstable living situations, such as temporarily sleeping on a friend or relative's sofa, may have also lost options as households took steps to reduce risk of exposure to the virus.
"The county has worked hard to increase shelter beds and interim housing, providing housing vouchers and other resources to help people who lose their housing get back on their feet," Supervisor John Gioia said. "What we need – and what we are working hard to bring about – is more permanent housing with supportive services which is priced within the economic reach of ordinary working people."
While 822 people who used county homeless services in 2021 reported finding permanent housing, only 40% of Emergency Housing Vouchers issued to county residents since 2021 have been used because their holders could not find housing they could afford even with the voucher, or they could not find a landlord who accepts housing vouchers.
To help bring more affordable housing to Contra Costa, the board established the Local Housing Trust Fund with $10 million from Measure X, the countywide sales tax that began in 2021. Measure X funds will contribute $12 million annually to the fund, administered by county agencies in part to support acquisition, construction, preservation, and rehabilitation of affordable housing in the county.
"The Local Housing Trust Fund is a powerful tool, but only one part of the solution," Supervisor Diane Burgis said. "Creating more affordable housing to reduce homelessness requires time, funding and a sustained commitment from everyone – state, federal and county government, not to mention cities, voters and landlords."
Documentation of the county's increase in homelessness comes by way of the biennial point-in-time count, a requirement of the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development for jurisdictions receiving funding for homeless services.
Each jurisdiction must conduct a study of community homelessness every two years, though Contra Costa usually performs an annual count. The data inform funding as well as local strategy for reducing homelessness. No counts were held in the Bay Area in 2021 because of the pandemic.
Point-in-time counts provide estimates rather than hard data. For example, surveyors in Contra Costa this year made no direct contact with those surveyed to reduce risk of spreading COVID-19, instead applying multipliers to observed evidence of homelessness.
CCH continues to review demographic and geographic information gathered through the 2022 survey. That information will be released later.
For information about point-in-time data from the Bay Area region, including neighboring counties, visit All Home.
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