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Martinez joins new homeless outreach effort

MARTINEZ, Calif. – Martinez and Pleasant Hill will soon share a full-time outreach team to connect with homeless residents as part of a new Contra Costa Health Services (CCHS) plan to more efficiently deliver services to the county’s homeless community.

Contra CostaThe cities agreed in January to fund the cost of a two-member team of CCHS outreach workers who will operate 40 hours a week within their boundaries.

Three other Coordinated Outreach, Referral and Engagement (CORE) teams now provide the service countywide, all managed by CCHS’ Division of Health, Housing and Homeless Services (H3).

CORE teams establish relationships with clients through regular communication and visits to camps and shelters, and serve as a point of contact for many social services. A 2016 count showed that about 1,100 county residents are without shelter on any given night.

Through CCHS, CORE teams connect clients to shelter, medical and mental health care, case managers, substance use disorder treatment and services, benefit counselors, housing and other services.

“Transitioning out of homelessness can be a long process,” said H3 Director Lavonna Martin. “The purpose of CORE is to identify the people who are in most need of help, and connect them to the services they need quickly and efficiently.”

Most Contra Costa cities rely on their police departments to manage homelessness, leading to a drain on public safety resources as officers repeatedly respond to complaints about public disturbances, theft and panhandling – often involving the same few people.

Pleasant Hill Police Chief John Moore said, “We respond every month to approximately 200 calls for service related to members of our homeless community. Homelessness is a complex issue that is not easily addressed through enforcement efforts. We hope this partnership with the Martinez Police Department and CCHS will result in long-term solutions.”

People booked for infractions such as public intoxication or urinating in public rarely remain in jail longer than a night. They are often released a few hours after booking at Martinez Detention Facility.

“We are looking forward to this partnership with the Pleasant Hill Police Department and CCHS as a means of leveraging resources to make an impact on the lives of this vulnerable population,” Martinez Police Chief Manjit Sappal said. “By working as a regional team, we can focus on using a variety of mechanisms to help people off the streets and into housing and services. Homelessness is a complex problem and this collaboration will help to examine alternative solutions that will benefit our communities.”

Last month, both the Martinez and Pleasant Hill city councils approved a plan to split the annual cost of a full-time CORE team through the end of the 2017-18 fiscal year.

CORE teams are part of a larger H3 initiative to streamline homeless services in Contra Costa County, funded in part through $1.2 million in grants from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

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