The Riverside County Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to create a committee to review ongoing strategies to reduce homelessness countywide and work with agencies to boost state and federal aid for programs aimed at ending chronic homelessness.
The 5-0 vote establishes the committee for a period of one year, at which time the panel will be revisited by the board.
Supervisors Manuel Perez and Karen Spiegel proposed the creation of the Homeless Ad Hoc Committee, which they said is a natural component of the "Homeless Action Plan" adopted by the board in 2018.
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The plan included the creation of the Office of Homeless Solutions,
which is managed by the Executive Office and is tasked with identifying funding sources for projects to address homelessness, coordinating with other government agencies on potential corrective measures, and serving as an advisory body to the board.
"The current level of funding that the county receives is far less
than what is needed to eliminate homelessness," according to Perez and Spiegel.
"There is no quick or singular fix. This requires unique, thoughtful and collaborative strategies designed to reduce the current number of homeless individuals and families, increase access to and availability of affordable housing, maximize the alignment and effectiveness of current efforts and lay the foundation for additional meaningful investment."
They expressed the need for the two-person committee to "work with staff and partners to strengthen collaborative relationships and build upon current county efforts."
The committee is likely to meet and confer with representatives from municipalities in the region to single out what programs are viable and which ones aren't. There will also be a focus on how behavioral health experts, law enforcement agencies and social workers approach homelessness.
There was no word on the planned number of meetings that the committee would propose to hold.
"We would like to invite the committee to come out to Lake Elsinore and to see some of the things we are doing — to take part in our task force and outreach days, more specifically to talk about the current outreach efforts and needs," Lake Elsinore City Councilwoman Natasha Johnson said during the public comment period of the supervisors' meeting.
Johnson said housing, mental health and substance abuse services are three crucial areas to address regarding homelessness, adding the city was eager to collaborate with the committee to pinpoint solutions.
The Lake Elsinore City Council approved the creation of a homeless task force in May 2017. The following year, city staff hired a outreach team that to this date has assisted more than 60 chronically homeless individuals in getting off the streets, according to the city's website.
The task force, which includes city council members, the police chief and several local stakeholders, meets monthly to identify short- and long-term solutions to combat local homelessness.
On Wednesday, the county Department of Public Social Services will oversee the annual "Point-In-Time Homeless Count," canvassing numerous locations with the help of hundreds of volunteers to identify individuals living on the streets, in shelters and in abandoned or drivable vehicles.
The 2019 count documented 2,811 sheltered and unsheltered homeless adults and minors throughout the county, compared to 2,310 in 2018.
Spiegel and her staff are scheduled to take part in the count.