I read with interest Eli Dominguez’s response to an article written by Mayor Schroder last month. In Eli’s letter, he says that the City and County refused to fund Doug’s efforts. As the Chairman and Treasurer of Pacheco/Martinez Homeless Outreach, Inc. (Contra Costa Homeless Outreach), I can tell you that Doug did indeed fund the operations until 2011. For those of you who knew Doug, it was a tremendous sacrifice on the part of his family and him as he had a very small income. Over the years since 2011, we were able to convince many businesses, individuals, churches and community groups to support the effort, but as any non-profit can tell you, there is rarely enough funds to cover expenses. We did make an appeal to the City of Martinez for funding in 2015-2016 and they gave us $30,000, which helped a lot. The County, through a Community Development Block Grant (HUD CDBG), did also give us $12,626 in 2015-2016.
The biggest problem we faced was that homelessness throughout the county had grown and was concerning many cities. We were asked by many municipalities to grow our operations to cover essentially every city in the county and that required hiring two additional outreach workers, buying another vehicle, raising insurance and fuel costs, etc. In the end, CDBG funding from Antioch, Pittsburg, Walnut Creek and the County funded just 68 percent of the costs of the employees, Doug still was not being paid and our costs associated with outreach were exploding.
Then County Homeless Services called last July and asked us to come in. We met with Lavonna Martin, the head of the agency where she promised that she would have all the funding we needed for 2016-2017, including paying Doug a modest salary. In the end, she once again failed to deliver on her promises and facing massive deficits, as we had in 2015-2016, we were forced to shut down the operation.
The City went to Tesoro and has received a $90,000 grant over three years and it will fund a very part-time outreach worker three nights a week, five hours a night. It’s not the best scenario, but it’s a start and a good effort. As I have told the Mayor, City Manager and Chief of Police, this is a county-wide problem and the County has to be the leader and step up to the plate. I suggested banding together with other cities and going to the County Board of Supervisors and DEMAND action. The leadership (or lack thereof) in Homeless Services over the past 12 years suggests major changes need to be made. Until the County makes helping the homeless a priority, it will only get worse. Believe me, your Council, City Manager and Chief of Police are as concerned as you are and they are doing more than every other city in the county right now!
With best regards,
Bill Schilz, Chairman/Treasurer, Pacheco/Martinez Homeless Outreach, Inc.