Some of the Valley’s homeless camps are located near Zone 7 flood control arroyos, and have required the Valley water wholesaler to clean up human waste and trash using their own personnel in order to safeguard the quality of water that seeps into the underground aquifers.
Although the agency has been working with local police and Caltrans to address the problems, those who work with the Tri-Valley’s homeless would like to see Zone 7 get more involved in efforts to deal with the consequences of homelessness.
Homelessness was addressed at Zone 7’s Jan. 15 meeting. Livermore Human Services Programs Manager Claudia Young made a presentation asking the board to get more involved in interagency efforts to deal with the consequences of homelessness. Young later told a reporter that it’s important to show the water agency what Livermore is doing as a concerted effort to address the problems of the homeless. Homelessness in Alameda County increased by 47 percent in 2019 over the previous year, according to the point-in-time survey.
Most of the area’s homeless people were living locally and lost their housing through a variety of reasons, Young said. Profiles of the Valley’s homeless are different from west of the hills, but no less real, she said. Here the income might be higher, but it takes just one slip to become homeless.
For example, despite a high income, a person could be suddenly thrown into a costly situation, such as medical expenses for a child or parent, which could affect his or her ability to pay rent or a mortgage, Young said.
Livermore, Pleasanton and Dublin, working together, have set a goal to accelerate efforts to help the homeless. They hired a national management firm to help deal with day-to-day realities of homelessness.
The funding comes from a state grant of $1.31 million. The state grant is passed through the county, which reimburses the cities as projects are underway. The grant is based on the three cities’ homeless populations tallied in the 2017 homeless count.
The business hired by Livermore, which serves as administrator, is Block by Block, a national firm with contracts in 14 neighborhoods in such Bay Area locations as Berkeley, Oakland, San Francisco and San Jose.
Block By Block’s Bay Area regional manager, Rich Mongaro, a Livermore resident for the past 20 years, is very familiar with the Valley’s homelessness. Mongaro told the Zone 7 board that, since November, Block by Block has been working with Livermore, which has by far the largest homeless population in the Valley, on biohazard clean-up in the downtown area and arroyos. The program also works to increase safety and security for people who sleep in their vehicles.
In addition, Block by Block checks downtown areas where some homeless sleep, and does wellness checks there, also checking for needles and other hazards left behind.
Some directors liked the idea of Zone 7 getting more involved, but they want to know more about what would be expected.
Directors asked questions about where the homeless can get drinking water. Open Heart Kitchen provides water and directs the people they serve to available public toilets, such as those at libraries.
Director Dick Quigley said he wondered what it would cost for Zone 7 to join the effort. With ratepayers providing Zone 7 funding, “we don’t have a bucket of gold, so I want that discussion (in the future),” he said.
Carol Mahoney, manager of integrated water resources, said that Zone 7 is already working with Livermore Police to help the homeless move out from the arroyos, and to understand how dangerous it is to pitch their tent in a flood zone.
“We have already been handling it below the radar,” she said. “We want to be helping, not just moving them from one spot to another.”