Homeless Feasibility Study to begin January 2018
■ Melissa Diaz Hernandez / Editor
Paul Webster, the director of strategic advancement for Solutions for Change in Vista, discussed the $19,000 compensation for the feasibility study with The Valley Chronicle.
“What Solutions for Change is hoping to recover and gain from city of Hemet is to be compensated for its expertise as it tries to assist Hemet with this issue,” said Webster.
From ad hoc committee to task force
The newspaper previously reported that the city of Hemet formed an ad hoc committee in February 2016 in an effort to address homelessness as a result of growing pressure from the community. That ad hoc committee was then renamed as a task force. Mayor Linda Krupa and Councilwoman Bonnie Wright are the City Council representatives who serve on that task force.
On May 9, Webster made a presentation to the Hemet City Council and the council approved a feasibility study, which was expected to take two to three months to complete. Wright spoke of the study in the video shown during Mayor Krupa’s state of the city address in October.
“Solutions for Change is a proven model with program elements that will enable our community to create a permanent, sustainable solution for addressing homelessness,” said Wright in the video.
The Solutions for Change 2015 annual report states that, “93 percent of the families who graduate our Solutions University never see homelessness again and we do that at about one-third of the cost of government programs.” The report can be found on their website at http://solutionsforchange.org/who-we-are/.
According to the discussion with Webster, the organization will enter into a five-month engagement; the first of three segments is aimed at gauging the community’s feelings and hopes with respect to the growing homeless population in Hemet.
If the study was approved by City Council in May, and the community is demanding a solution, why has it taken so long to get the feasibility study going? Why are we going into winter with no “solutions for change” thus far? And why has a two- to three-month study morphed into a five-month “engagement,” almost doubling the project time? At this rate it’s very likely that another cold winter will pass before help arrives. A source revealed to The Valley Chronicle that turnover in the city manager position was to blame.
Phase 1 – community impact
The study, which is expected to begin after the first of the year, will focus on community impact – what the community desires and what it sees as the problem. One of the questions Webster hopes to answer is, “Who is motivated to be engaged in a long-term solution?”
Phase 2 – collecting data
The second phase will include data collection, including the profile of Hemet’s homeless community. Are they mostly veterans? Single adults? Females? Children? Families? Or is it a combination?
Other questions that need answers include: What are the available resources? What is the total picture? Solutions for Change will perform an assessment, then analyze at the data.
Would the program include workforce training for personal development? Where would that be located and what would require? If there is development, what would that look like and where would that be? Webster is hoping to get these questions and more answered.
Law enforcement has become involved with the creation of a crisis intervention team. The Valley Chronicle previously reported in April that the city of Hemet entered into a three-year agreement with the Department of Behavioral Health to deploy a two-person crisis intervention team in Hemet to respond to mental health crisis calls. The two-person team is made up of one law enforcement officer and a therapist. The therapist rides in the police car 40 hours per week and is dispatched with the police officer on every call possible.
Phase 3 – focus groups
The final phase will center around focus groups, then Solutions for Change will present a recommendation to the City Council and representatives from the community.
Getting down to brass tacks
This study, according to Webster, will provide the answer for the next step. What will the community support and what is the true problem?
Webster posed this question: “In the long term, is it less expensive to help homeless families and people returning to workforce with stability, or permanently house chronic homeless and return them to the workforce?”
For a number of years, Solutions for Change has seen people driven by compassion to give basic needs to those on the streets, but is that the best response?” asked Webster. “What is the most cost effective way to address the challenge and how to engage the community to solve it?”
“What have seen formerly homeless families in Vista that are now giving back to the community and are a voice. They are glad they were not forced out by law enforcement and are now a valuable component of the community,” said Webster.
About Solutions for Change
Solutions for Change was founded in 1999 and has moved more than 800 families and 2,000 children out of homelessness. In addition to education and housing, Solutions for Change has an aquaponics farm, which allows the organization to generate income and provide job training for their participants.
“Solutions for Change has served as a catalyst to effectively serve the homeless through true compassion. Street homelessness has decreased as the entire community recognizes that handouts increase the amount of street homelessness,” said Webster in an interview with The Valley Chronicle in February. “At the same time, the community has a positive and effective means of serving those who desire to transform their lives out of homelessness. As Solutions for Change has grown, Vista has benefitted by way of increased property values, lower crime, and greater community engagement as Solution’s residents reinvest in the local community. The community has benefitted as volunteers and local faith organizations create a tangible means of providing a safety net and source of support and encouragement for the homeless.”