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Homeless Efforts Outlined

From Visalia PD’s Homeless Outreach & Proactive Enforcement (HOPE) Team to putting grant dollars to work on housing projects, the City of Visalia continues to spend considerable time, money and effort to help individuals experiencing homelessness and the related impacts.

“There are many versions of homelessness and while the numbers and circumstances may vary, the situation of those experiencing homelessness in Visalia is very real; their living situations often impact their mental and physical health and often lead to dire situations,” shared Leslie Caviglia, City of Visalia Deputy City Manager. “Likewise, the community is dealing with the visual blight and health and safety issues that are associated with a large number of unsheltered people.”

At the Monday, 10/1 City Council meeting, the Council received information from multiple City Departments, as well as from Tulare County Supervisor Amy Shuklian and Tulare County Health & Human Services Agency Director Jason Britt who provided a presentation on County outreach and programs along with a presentation by the Kings Tulare Homeless Alliance.

“The City has not sat by and watched,” added Caviglia. “Nearly every department is involved with people experiencing homelessness in our community. Virtually every police officer, fire fighter, park maintenance worker, solid waste driver, code enforcement official and others work with the homeless frequently, if not daily.”

With a panel presentation, highlights of the discussion included:
  • Since the inception of PD’s HOPE Team, there have been 9,202 transient related calls for service.
    • The four HOPE Team officers have handled 44% of those calls with a focused outreach community stakeholders to identify long-term solutions to chronic homeless issues by providing mental health resources, substance abuse resources, housing placements and more.
  •  Code Enforcement officers spend approximately 80 hours a week working on public complaints as they build relationships with the homeless community.
    • City staff store found property for 90 days to allow the opportunity for individuals who are experiencing homelessness to reclaim their items.
  • The Finance Department’s Housing Division uses allocated state and federal funds to support the acquisition, rehabilitation and rental of properties through community partners Family Services and Self-Help Enterprises, Inc.
  • The Public Works Department spent approximately 1,000 hours in 2017/2018 cleaning up homeless related issues in parks, trails and waterways/riparian setbacks.
    • Unfortunately, debris left in City waterways continues to be a problem and clean up and disposal costs come in at approximately $8,000 per month.
    • The Solid Waste Division fields calls weekly regarding individuals sleeping and defecating in trash enclosures, as rummaging through trashcans continues to be a problem.
  • Thanks to Council’s authorization in 2017 of the Environmental Cleanup Opportunities (ECO) Project, the ECO project focuses specifically on unemployed individuals who are experiencing homelessness to assist with getting them the documents to be job ready, be reintroduced in to the work force and gain job skills.
    • The benefits of this program are two-fold: job skills and litter removal as the teams move throughout the community conducting clean ups on City-owned properties and right-of-ways.
City staff asked the Council to provide direction on whether they would like staff to pursue either an expanded clean-up program to address the solid waste ad debris that is being dumped on public lands, and/or a sheltering program in partnership with local agencies.

On a 4-1 vote, Council voted to have staff return at a later date with information on both an expanded clean-up program and what a sheltering program could look like.

City staff will now prepare additional information for Council review at an upcoming meeting.

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