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How a new Riverside office plans to solve homelessness in the city

By in Press Enterprise on November 11, 2017

By Ryan Hagen

Riverside officials hope a restructuring at City Hall will help them toward an ambitious goal: ending homelessness.

They don’t expect to achieve that immediately, but the eventual goal is reflected in the name of the new Office of Homeless Solutions.

“The question is how do we go beyond serving the homeless to solving the issue of homelessness,” said Mayor Rusty Bailey, crediting Pastor Jeff Wright of Madison Street Church in Riverside for the phrase and City Manager John Russo for creating the office. “This makes it a focal point … (Homelessness is) not just down the ladder of bureaucracy, it’s front and center.”

Homelessness isn’t new a new problem in the city or the nation. Nor are the city’s efforts to end it.

That’s one message communicated by the website on the issue that the city launched along with the new office, The website includes sections detailing homelessness in Riverside, the city’s actions to end it and how residents can help.

What’s new is coordinating those resources through a central office. Russo made that change this month as part of a broader restructuring of the city’s government that he outlined Tuesday, Nov. 7.

Assistant City Manager Alex Nguyen leads the newly formed “People” section of City Hall and oversees the homelessness office.

“It allows us to focus, focus, focus,” Nguyen said, adding that only a few large cities, including San Francisco, have such a division.

The homelessness team consists of 13 people, including Nguyen, with the other 12 focusing only on homelessness and housing.

“You can’t solve homelessness without housing,” said Emilio Ramirez, whose title is set to change from deputy director of Community and Economic Development to director of the Office of Homeless Solutions. “It’s tied into employment, education, healthcare, but especially the need for permanent supportive housing.”

Other aspects of the plan include “wrap-around […]    

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