Last month, more than 30 stakeholders in homelessness prevention gathered at Bishop City Hall to discuss the formation of a Continuum of Care (CoC) program to answer the unmet needs of the homeless in Inyo, Mono and Alpine counties. Stakeholders included Inyo and Mono County Social Services and Health and Human Services, the Salvation Army, Northern Inyo Hospital, Inyo County veteran services, Mammoth Lakes Housing and several churches.
Inyo Mono Advocates for Community Action (IMACA) Housing and Planning Director Larry Emerson explained the CoC as a new organization that would “provide a funding mechanism not available now to County organizations that provide homelessness services.” Current homeless services include emergency shelter, vouchers, rental assistance, and “any other help finding a place to live,” Emerson said.
Neither Inyo nor Mono County has an accurate count of its homeless population, Emerson said. However, he calculated, according to a state-wide average of 36 homeless for every 10,000 population, there may be as many as 130 homeless individuals living in Inyo and Mono counties. “If we get the CoC up and running, we’re required to do a point-in-time count of the homeless,” he explained. “That will give us the ability to determine a more accurate count.”
The CoC would also serve as a collaborative way to provide services that are offered separately, and sometimes only partially, by organizations like IMACA and Bishop’s Salvation Army. “We in Health and Human services don’t really have the funding to address homelessness,” said Anna Scott of Inyo County HHS. “We often refer [the homeless] to IMACA and Salvation Army for those services, unless they have a specific mental health issue.” Susi Bains of Wild Iris also noted that her organization refers the homeless elsewhere. “We need something like the CoC,” she said.
Although organizations like IMACA are eligible for some grants, Emerson pointed out that “the CoC would provide [the opportunity for] state and federal funding that stakeholders can’t apply for.” The CoC would be able to compete for funding sources such as the Emergency Solutions Grants (ESG) program through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The ESG program could provide funding to establish shelters and re-house homeless individuals, as well as to offer essential services and homelessness prevention.
“We know there’s a need based on the requests for services that IMACA and others receive,” said Emerson. The second stakeholder meeting is scheduled for Oct. 2. For information, contact Emerson at 760.873.3021 x 5 or email@example.com.