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What do you think of Riverside’s plan to help the homeless? Officials want to know

By in Press Enterprise on January 13, 2018

By Ryan Hagen

On a basic level, Riverside’s “housing first” approach to solve homelessness this past year is as simple as it gets.

First, officials try to find housing for homeless people. Then, with the instability of homelessness out of the way, they focus on the people’s other needs.

But the roll-out raises more questions: Where should this housing go? How is it paid for? How are other challenges — from mental health to drug addiction — addressed? And is “housing first” really the best approach?

Now, the city has detailed proposed answers to these and other questions: its 69-page Housing First Strategy.

And officials are looking for residents’ input before the Riverside City Council votes on the next steps. That meeting is set for Feb. 27. The public can share their thoughts on the plan until Feb. 12.

What is housing first?

Traditional homeless strategies focus on first fixing issues such as addiction or mental health first, then help homeless people find shelter with conditions — such as how long they could stay there and what they were allowed to do while there.

Housing First would reverse that.

Any homeless person could move into an apartment complex, and once there would receive extensive help to address their other needs.

Because a 2017 count found 389 unsheltered homeless people in Riverside, that means the city plans to build nearly 400 units of permanent supportive housing.

City administrators have potential housing sites and plans to run a housing-first policy, said Emilio Ramirez, director of the city’s Office of Homeless Solutions.

“The public should know it is a very comprehensive effort that’s going to mean a long-term implementation, and I encourage anyone to look it over and give me a call,” he said.

The report finds 14 sites that meet all requirements for a permanent supportive housing development, such as being more than 15,000 […]    

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