Community Snapshot: Alameda County, CA

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National Alliance to End Homelessness

Community Snapshot | May 3, 2010

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April 2010

In 2003, Alameda County identified over 5,000 people who experienced homelessness on a given night, 43 percent of whom were persons in families with children. Since that time, there has been a 15 percent reduction in total homelessness, and more significant decreases among homeless families and the chronically homeless population.

Alameda County, CA was one of the first communities in the country to create a collaborative, multi-system plan to end homelessness. In 2004, the Alameda County Social Services Agency, Housing and Community Development Department, Behavioral Health Care Services, the city of Oakland, the city of Berkeley, and nine other sponsoring agencies initiated the Alameda County Countywide Homeless and Special Needs Plan, known as the EveryOne Home plan. This plan represents a reorientation in Alameda County’s approach to homelessness, and indicates a recognition that stable housing is fundamental to the health and well-being of all people, particularly those who suffer from physical or mental health issues.

In January of 2008, EveryOne Home was established as a community-based nonprofit organization responsible for coordinating and implementing the strategies laid out in the housing and special needs plan.

Key Initiatives

Housing First/Permanent Housing. Housing First is a primary strategy included in the EveryOne Home plan and is associated with reductions in homelessness countywide. Supporting this strategy is an increase in the number of permanent housing options carefully targeted to those who need them most. Between 2005 and 2009, 512 permanent housing units were created through an increase in both place-based housing (125 new units) and housing vouchers (386 vouchers). Many units that had served as Transitional Housing were converted to Permanent Supportive Housing during that time period.

Homeless Outreach and Stabilization Team (HOST). In 2006, Alameda County selected the Bonita House to operate a new Mental Health Services program for chronically homeless individuals with mental illness. HOST is a “Full Service Partnership,” with staffing 24 hours a day, and flexible funds to meet various client needs. The program is resource-rich and maintains a low caseload to allow for a “whatever it takes” approach to getting homeless people into housing. The team is multidisciplinary and offers a variety of services including: housing subsidies and support, employment services, integrated primary care, psychiatric services, peer and family support, trauma-informed services, benefits advocacy, and crisis intervention.

Strategic Working Committees. The strategies adopted by Alameda County are implemented by working committees around each strategic area. Each committee has representatives from the various sectors involved in the housing and special needs plan, denoting their integrated approach to ending homelessness. The Supportive Housing Committee is responsible for creating new permanent housing through increasing awareness, capacity, and resources. The Research and Evaluation Committee uses data to measure and report the most effective approaches to ending homelessness. Resource Development and Public Relations oversees EveryOne Home’s organizational and financial stability and sustainability, and finally the Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Committee maintains the Homeless Assistance Award by ensuring that Alameda County meets or exceeds all HUD requirements and that both the funding and information generated ultimately serve the goal of ending homelessness.

Priority Home Partnership (Prevention). Priority Home Partnership (PHP) is the implementation of the federal Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Rehousing Program (HPRP), established as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. PHP is an integrated, multi-agency approach to prevention that involves centralized screening at intake through a 211 hotline number, and an innovative assessment tool that aims to provide households and families with the right mix of housing and services. Families in crisis are assessed and referred to a Housing Resource Center (HRC) by the 211 hotline. These HRCs are located across the county and are equipped with housing stabilization and financial assistance services for families in need.

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Outcomes

In recent years, homelessness in Alameda County has declined considerably. From the initial 2003 survey, overall homelessness in the county has decreased by 15 percent among all homeless people, almost 20 percent among chronically homeless individuals, and approximately 37 percent among families. The number of homeless children alone has decreased by 33 percent since 2003.

These trends continue even in the most recent years. Between 2007 and 2009, the total number of people experiencing homelessness decreased by 10 percent, the number of chronically homeless people decreased by 18 percent, and the number of people in families with children decreased by 13 percent.

Family homelessness has declined in all jurisdictions, ranging from a 6.5 percent decrease in Berkeley to a 43 percent decline in Oakland. Countywide, family homelessness as a share of the overall homeless population has declined as well. In 2003, persons in families represented 43 percent of the overall homeless population. In 2009, families comprised 41 percent of total homelessness. These declines clearly demonstrate Alameda County’s commitment to end homelessness for families and all people experiencing homelessness.