CNCounty News

Urban counties eye strategies to ease homelessness

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Key Takeaways

Members of NACo’s Large Urban County Caucus (LUCC) discussed ways they can conquer homelessness at their meeting at NACo’s Legislative Conference.

“We face a crisis,” said Orange County, Calif. Supervisor Andrew Do, who was one of four panelists in the packed room Sunday morning at the Washington Hilton. The first step that county officials can take to address the homeless issue in their communities is to form a regional public-private leadership group, he said.

“We have to play the role of facilitator,” Do said.

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Fellow panelist, Clackamas County, Ore. Commissioner Martha Schrader, said her county also develops public-private partnerships to find solutions, including bringing in members of the county’s real estate and construction industries.

Los Angeles County Supervisor Kathryn Barger told the audience that her county has about 52,000 homeless on the streets each night, with more than a third struggling with mental illness. She and her fellow supervisors are urging their state to apply for a Medicaid waiver that would expand coverage for inpatient mental health treatment at residential facilities.

“There is no one size fits all, but we’re looking at the root causes,” Barger said.

When affordable housing is going up in your county, panelist Claudette Fernandez, director, Office of Block Grant Assistance, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) noted that one important factor is to be sure that the infrastructure is available (sewer, roads, etc.) to support it. “It needs to be sustainable,” she said.

Fernandez also said that HUD is working on a proposed rulemaking to help streamline regulations that hamper the building of affordable housing.

Miami-Dade County, Fla. Commissioner Sally Heyman noted that her county makes use of a 1/2 -cent tourist tax that goes into a “homeless trust.” Heyman also suggested that a “best practices” on finding solutions to homelessness be accessible to NACo members.

It was also announced at Sunday’s meeting that the 2019 LUCC Symposium will take place Nov. 6-8 in Miami-Dade County.

LUCC members were advised to take advantage of the just-released NACo Affordable Housing Toolkit.

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