How Redlands PD Is Using Grant Money to Combat Homelessness
Mobile outreach is just one of the services Redlands Police Department provides thanks to a $600,000 Homeless Emergency Aid Program grant.
Redlands Daily Facts
By Jennifer Iyer
REDLANDS, Calf. -- A man who said his name is Ted stood in damp clothes in an arched portico at the Redlands Bowl on a recent Thursday.
A former engineer for a military contractor with short-term memory problems, Ted said in a soft voice that he has been homeless for decades. He got wet cleaning up the belongings strewn about the grounds by others and was on his way to Walmart to get something dry.
The night had been cold and damp, and more rain was on the way.
He didn't want to use his last name because he went to school in Redlands, he said. Like the movie "Romy and Michele's High School Reunion," "you want to show up in a helicopter," he said. "This getup isn't something to be proud of."
He was talking to Sheila Whitehead, probably the most visible change brought to the Redlands Police Department with part of a $600,000 state grant that landed this summer to address the city's shelter crisis.
Whitehead is one of two part-time community outreach coordinators hired by the department as part of the city's efforts to help move people living on the streets into permanent housing. Marci Atkins, the other hire, is not new to the position.
I stay on the streets, but during the day I'd like to have a place where I want to design a three-wheeled vehicle that will contain a tent and all this other stuff," Ted said, gesturing to a neat stack of belongings, "and to have a place to develop a prototype. I have an income. I'm looking for a safe, quiet place that I can afford."
When asked if he found the coordinators helpful, his eyes lit up and immediately he said, "Heck, yes. Just as, and I don't mean this in a sexist way, as cheerleaders. Just (offering) human values."
On this day, Atkins and Whitehead met homeless individuals they had pre-screened to be a part of a monthly multi-agency mobile outreach program to put them in contact with services they need -- from drug and alcohol counseling to medical care.
Samantha Callejas with United Way 211 helps the homeless get identification, birth certificates and more for free, and has been a part of the Redlands outreach efforts for about a year.
I like it because it actually brings everything the client may need right then and there," Callejas said.
The mobile outreach is just one of the services Atkins and Whitehead provide thanks to the $600,000 Homeless Emergency Aid Program grant. The Police Department shares the money with Family Service Association of Redlands, which provides motel vouchers as a bridge to get some people off the street and into temporary housing, and Inland Housing Solutions, which finds them a more permanent home.
Though Atkins has been in the coordinator position for several years, the last one as a volunteer when funding ran dry, the new grant has given the community outreach program new objectives.
Directives with the state money have narrowed the scope of Atkins' work, requiring her to get signed consent forms from clients before she can enter them in the San Bernardino County Homeless Management Information System database and provide service.
Before, she would just connect those on the streets with groups that could help.
Out of the 180 individuals they expect to make contact with each year of the two-year grant, about 120 will receive bridge housing and 35 are expected to get help finding permanent housing over the life of the two-year grant, organizers said.
Aimee Enriquez, a clinical therapist with the county's behavioral health department, who was also on that day's team, said she has seen some changes since the summer, such as more readily accessible services.
It all comes down to funding," she said. "Sure there may be more steps, but we'll get them there."
Kelli Ensman, also a clinical therapist with behavioral health, said connecting to the database offers service providers better information.
"I think it just opens more doors to get people into services," Ensman said. "At first you would show up and not have a particular service to offer them, you were still checking and giving them hygiene kids, food or water."
Whitehead said success won't be a quick process as it might take several attempts to build up enough trust with those the coordinators and service providers are trying to help.
We might encounter them one month and they don't want to do it then," Whitehead said, "but a couple months later, 'you know what, maybe I do want to get help, maybe there is someone in the city who is willing to help me, that believes in me.'"
Atkins said she thinks she and Whitehead will be a good team.
"We both bring a lot to the table," Atkins said. "I'm going to learn a lot from her, and she's going to learn a lot from me, just because I'm already in the program."
Later that day, the two met with Cory Jacobs, who just returned from picking up two of his children from class. He and four of his children, ages 8 to 17, live in a motel room.
Sasha, 8, and Josiah, 10, sat on the beds, watching TV, doing homework, and discussing what they wanted for Christmas with Atkins and Whitehead.
The family has been without permanent housing for about a year.
I would get paid from work, and we would be in a motel until the money ran out, then it would be a day or two, sometimes three days in the car," Jacobs said.
Recently the starter went out on his car, forcing him to take the kids to school via public bus.
"I knew when the weather started to change that something had to happen because they can't be in the car when it's cold outside," he said.
That's when he met Atkins, who put the family on the HEAP-grant funded track. First, they received motel vouchers from Family Service, and now they are working with Inland Housing Solutions to find an apartment Jacobs can afford.
"I'll get my own room and I'll let my friends in there," Josiah said, "and maybe a girl I like."
It's been difficult, Jacobs said, but the family is still together and that's what matters most.
"With no struggle," he added, "there's no progress, I guess."
(c)2019 the Redlands Daily Facts (Redlands, Calif.)
Visit the Redlands Daily Facts (Redlands, Calif.) at www.redlandsdailyfacts.com
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
McClatchy-Tribune News Service