Countywide system aims to better connect homeless population to services in El Dorado County | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Countywide system aims to better connect homeless population to services in El Dorado County

A new coordinated system for connecting El Dorado County's homeless population with services is coming this winter.

El Dorado County's Continuum of Care (CoC) — a U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) program for addressing homelessness — has until Jan. 23 to get a "coordinated entry process" in place for the various agencies around the county tackling the issue.

The coordinated entry is a registration process these agencies will use to collect more detailed information about the individuals seeking help and prioritize them based on the urgency of their needs.

"It's a community-wide approach that moves the CoC homeless response system from a collection of independent service providers that employ their owner referral process and wait list programs to a comprehensive approach for all housing resources," said Daniel Del Monte, deputy director of the county Health and Human Services Agency. "The system will prioritize programs for the most vulnerable first because that's been proven to reduce the costs for hospitals and police and allows us to improve the community's health and the health of the individual.

While coordinated entries have already been implemented in some regions, they are now a requirement for HUD-funded Continuums of Care.

Tahoe Coalition for the Homeless, the organization behind the winter homeless shelter, the Warm Room, is one of the agencies that will take part in the new system.

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"It's a great way to get more data," said Nicole Zaborsky, a coalition board member. "I think the more information we can gather on painting an individual's story, or the collective story of the issues that are facing homeless individuals in our community, we can, one, assist them better and, two, provide opportunities better.

"A part of that is having better financial resources from the federal and state government so we can assist with whatever the greatest need is whether it's building low-income housing or assisting people with getting jobs."

Getting the coordinated entry in place will open up more funding opportunities for supportive housing programs, according to Del Monte.

"Momentum is building significantly — and it couldn't be a more critical time," said Del Monte, pointing to recent data on El Dorado County pulled from the online real estate marketplace, Zillow.

From 2015 to 2017, the median house price in El Dorado County rose 37 percent and rental prices jumped 88 percent. Across the state of California, rents increased 25 percent between 2000 and 2014, while the average income of renters dropped 6 percent.

"So looking at those last two years in El Dorado County with rents going up 88 percent, as that happens and wage stays stagnate, there's a threshold of earners that are on the verge of homelessness on any given day," said Del Monte.

But with significant strides made in developing El Dorado County's CoC and connecting other agencies, Del Monte is optimistic.

"We've established a governing board and are launching this new system. We've pursued the most amount of funding that we've ever pursued," he said. "We have a national leading consultant who is supporting our CoC. Without question, we've been gaining synergy throughout this whole year."

Warm Room

The Warm Room does not yet have a location secured for its third winter season.

“In the past two years we haven’t had a lease at this point in the calendar year,” said Nicole Zaborsky, a Tahoe Coalition for the Homeless board member. “We’re not necessarily worried. We have three options that we’re looking at, so we’re still getting the details of what month the spaces are available and what amenities they have versus others — plus cost.”

Last year the Warm Room opened on Dec. 15.