Home » Martinez City Council Grills Core Team on Homeless Response

Martinez City Council Grills Core Team on Homeless Response

by CC News
Core team

Last week, the Martinez City Council grilled the Contra Costa County CORE Team over services it was providing to the City of Martinez.

The line of questioning came as CORE team (Coordinated Outreach Referral, Engagement ) provided its Quarter 1 report where they made 675 contacts and provided 117 individuals services. However, the council was concerned CORE was only focused on the downtown area and was not communicating with local businesses or other non-profit stakeholders. There were also concerns about no services available between 12:00 am to 8:00 am.

The report came as the city recently expanded its contract with CORE to ensure a full-time team of two workers were providing 40-hours per week in the City of Martinez. The cost is $269,729.

Fadi Elhayek, the CORE Outreach Director provided an overview with specifics to the City of Martinez where their primary goal is placement into shelter or housing.  They also consider themselves a mobile front door to services which include:

  • Linkages to health and behavior health
  • Direct placement into shelter and warming centers
  • Encampment abatement support
  • Transportation to appointments
  • Connection to community resources (benefits, legal services & employment)
  • Housing placement

According to Elhayek, the data for quarter 1 shows:

  • CORE provided service to 117 individuals and made 675 contacts in Q1
  • Each person served 6 times on average.
  • 43% report they lost their housing in Martinez.
  • 78% said they have roots in Martinez.

Elhayek shared they send weekly reports to the City of Martinez and services provided.

Martinez Police Chief Andrew White reminded the council that the city expanded the program by using ARPA funding—contribution $130k from ARPA with a  total funding of $269,729 which he anticipates increasing if they continue the program but have yet to identify a source of funding at the current service level.

“We have seen a lot of success and I would say that I’ve seen the most pivoting with CORE in the past few months that when we make requests they are able to adjust. I’ve seen that benefit increase,” said White. “It’s important to acknowledge the challenges that exist and one of those issues that even though a lot more money was thrown at the issue, it’s a very complex issue and there are impacts to other people based on our approach. There are individuals that don’t want to receive the services from CORE and they cause disruptions in the community, impact businesses, cause disturbances and cause issues.”

White also spoke about encampment cleanups including one by the waterfront with an estimated cost of $35k for a single encampment. He called it a legal challenge to stop encampments before they grow into larger issues while it’s not police not doing their jobs, but rather a legal issue on encampments.

Core team

Councilmember Jay Howard questioned County Core Team on why they would want to continue funding a program that they admit they cant provide.

Councilmember Jay Howard said the CORE team does a great job in interacting with the people while someone who is homeless can’t just call and request housing, instead, CORE would have to access the needs.

Elhayek shared a lot of times the beds are full and that they are now placing people a lot of times based on “vulnerability”.

Howard called it a challenging and complex situation but wanted to know how CORE responds when someone doesn’t want services.

Elhayek responded, “we can offer them whatever they may be interested in. If its basic emergency supplies, if it’s a medical appointment issue, its rapport building and seed building A lot of the times we will work with the client. I’ve heard of one client who we worked with for two years before they accepted shelter. You have to continue to work with them, motivate and encourage them and always offer it to them.”

Howard questioned the shelters and how its always full—including Delta Landing in the City of Pittsburg opening full—with the only open facility being in Richmond and people don’t want to go to Richmond due to safety concerns so now you are dealing with someone who wants shelter with nowhere to go.

“We don’t have enough shelter beds to meet the needs so there is a lack of interim housing and a lack of permanent affordable housing for those on very low income,” stated Jennie Robbins of CORE. “That is a large reason why we are seeing the rise of the homelessness and unhoused we have in our community. What it points to is we need to do a better job with identifying what those other interim solutions look like.”

Robbins suggested hotel rooms, alternative practices like applying for state funding to purchase hotels and motels and are looking at a system level—CORE is only one area of the overall system of care.

Howard asked what CORE was doing with staffing because when he calls he 99.99% of the time he gets a recording. He said only 1-time he had someone call him back.

“When you make that call and no one answers, that has got to be a loss of a precious moment so what are you doing to change your staffing levels?” asked Howard.

Robbins said this year they added on two additional dispatchers—for a total of four—which is not enough to meet the need. They average close to 300 calls per day. They are also no longer able to take voicemails due to it not being a good practice due to staffing. She also stated they are looking at another phone system to improve services.

Howard, who called this a nationwide problem, and while they are using one-time ARPA money and they won’t have it next year, questioned why they should spend this money they don’t have anymore on a service that CORE themselves are not able to provide.

“It’s not your fault,” stated Howard. “But if you could talk about, why would we want to do that if you are telling us you cannot provide the service that you are supposed to provide?

Robbins explained it takes a lot of time to get someone into the right place to be ready to go into housing—such as documentation and helping people get to appointments so they can get back on the right track such as GA, DMV, social security income or housing vouchers.

“There is a lot of different pieces of work that we are doing under housing coordination to get somebody ready for housing,” explained Robbins. “It takes a lot of time to get someone just document ready. We are working with folks to get healthcare or treatment…including working with nurses in the field.  It just takes a lot of time, including a half a day to get to DMV, pick up medication then to the warming center. Its time intensive.”

Vice Mayor Mark Ross stated he has seen a decrease downtown and has seen fewer incidents around his office. He shared he appreciated the effort and it was paying off to some degree.

Councilmember Satinder S. Malhi called it very challenging circumstances and its been 3-months since they increased the contract and confirmed the two workers they paid for are not leaving the City of Martinez and are within Martinez full-time.

Malhi shared to him that local businesses owners have yet to meet any of CORE’s staff and wanted clarification on the outreach being done—if they sat down with the Chamber Board or Downtown Martinez or gone up and down Main Street.

“There is a perception that some folks, not everyone, some are saying I’ve never met anybody, I’ve never seen anybody, I don’t know who to call. There is a lack of communication,” shared Malhi.

Contra Costa County

CORE Team providing its report to the Martinez City Council on Nov 1, 2023

Rebecca Sanders (CORE Program Director) shared she has been walking up and down Main Street talking to the businesses while handing out flyers and explaining their services. She admitted she did not speak to any business owners or gone to meetings and was open to attending. She shared some people did not want to speak with her while others were responsive but called it more of an alcohol issue, not a homeless issue.

“Its more of talking to the staff who are there during the day rather than the business owner,” stated Sanders.

Malhi believed the local businesses needed to hear this information and believed they needed to work with staff to facilitate some of the conversations with he chamber and downtown Martinez.

“They need to see and here this too,” stated Malhi who called this a partnership and no one on their own could solve this issue, but it needed everyone. “We don’t have a permanent source of funding and we need to work on identifying that as a council, but with the time we do have I want to maximize the resources we have at our disposal.”

Malhi did caution a lot of the resources are downtown and asked about CORE responding to all parts of the city—such as the Alhambra corridor. He asked about outreach to other parts of the city.

“The team does outreach to the entire city of Martinez,” stated Sanders. “Anyone who is homeless in Martinez, we get dispatched all over… if the team doesn’t have call, they are out looking for encampments.”

Malhi questioned since staffing is from 8:00 am to midnight, what occurs during the 8-hours when no one is available and someone calls or are they out of luck. What does police do at 2:30 am.

Robbins stated most people are sleeping and resting between midnight and 8:00 am and they are focused on the daytime hours.

“At this point in time, we don’t have plans to have shifts or teams from midnight to 8:00 am because we don’t have anything to offer because at that time all our warming shelter beds are full. We have 12 warming center beds in Concord and a warming center that just opened in Richmond,” stated Ribbons. “I realize a lot of folks from central and east don’t want to go to Richmond but we do have some that do so we are bringing another 10-beds.”

Malhi then asked the chief if what Robbins stated coincides with what the police department is seeing during this 12:00 am to 8:00 am window and how many calls they get.

White shared while he didn’t have the numbers, it was significantly less than what they see during the day—police does sometimes place people on the streets in a hotel overnight and every supervisor on duty is able to make that decision, but its very limited.

“We can’t offer it every night because its not cost effective but when we do encounter the situations where we have to make an emergency type decision we do fill in that gap by doing that,” stated White who added they are working to extend the offering to CORE within the police department budget.

Malhi then shared his conversation with Loaves and Fishes as he was curious about the interaction with CORE in which the answer he got back was “room for improvement”.  He wanted to know what CORE’s engagement with Loaves and Fishes has been or any other resource providers.

Sanders stated they are not at Loaves and Fishes because they are already providing a service—but they refer people to Loaves and Fishes for meals.

“I am sorry, but if somebody is coming to Loaves and Fishes for food, but wouldn’t they not be the various types of people you are trying to help? Why wouldn’t you have your workers there introducing themselves so they know what services you have to offer because they are providing one specific service which is to make sure they get food? But if they got food insecurity, they most likely have housing insecurity as well. There is a strong correlation. My question is why aren’t you there?”

Sanders explained that the team has good communication with the people receiving services there and they are engaging with them on a daily basis—but she had no issue going to Loaves and Fishes if they want a presence.

“I would like to keep the team in the field actually engaging with the clients,” stated Sanders who shared that the team in the past has gone to Loaves and Fishes and 99% of the people there are already engaged.

Malhi wanted better communication.

“My overarching point here is we have multiple organizations who are operating in this space. They’re not talking to each other. I need people to start talking to each other and share your resources,” stated Malhi. “You are all dealing with challenges but you need to leverage one another’s resources more effectively. We need to up the communication and lets start talking.”

Councilmember Debbie McKillop thanked the CORE team for their efforts while improved communications with the police department. She also encouraged CORE to begin reaching out to the Chamber of Commerce and Downtown Martinez to get in touch with local businesses.

Mayor Brianne Zorn asked CORE if they believed Martinez needed a warming center or shelter.

Robbins replied, “of course” but they could consider different models such as hotels or other concepts around bridge housing.

Zorn asked how the CORE team feels about people being able to refuse services.

Robbins said “its what we do. It’s the expectation not the exception” while sharing its about trust building and it takes time but called it frustrating but understood people are all at different stages of change.

Zorn also asked around funding noting she anticipated the funding Martinez can provide is cut in half, what kind of reduction services will Martinez see—what do cities receive if they do not pay for CORE at all.

Robbins stated if funding was to be cut, they could find a neighboring city to partner with to blend services or they could problem solve other revenue that could be used. As for cities who do not support a team, the support is more limited with no direct lines—the community would call into 2-1-1 and the general core teams would respond. She also said there were longer wait times.

Chief White had direction from council on how to go forward with upcoming reports from CORE and to ensure they were focusing on all areas of Martinez, not just the downtown.

City Council Documents

Here is the report via Contra Costa Health:

Section One: Program Outcomes

The Martinez CORE team provided services to 117 unique (unduplicated) individuals and made 675 contacts during Quarter 1. Each person that was served in Q1 was contacted on average of 6 times. Of those served, 43% reported that they lost their housing in Martinez and 78% (91individuals) reported that they have roots in Martinez (Grew up in Martinez, have family friends, etc). The top three self-reported causes of homelessness of those contacted by the CORE Martinez team are: 1) Low income (330 individuals), 2) loss of job (279 individuals), 3) thrown out (271 individuals). Note, cause of homelessness won’t match total served because individuals can choose more than one option for the cause of their homelessness.

Amongst all individuals and families served by the Martinez CORE team: 93% (109 individuals), reported having a disabling condition, 52% (60 individuals) have been unhoused for over five years, 15% (17 individuals) report being survivors of domestic violence, and 65% (76 individuals) report having zero income. The Martinez CORE team provided 1,575 services that range from healthcare coordination to warming center placement. CORE’s north star is to transition those living outside to a stable housing destination and during Quarter 1, the Martinez CORE team provided 653 housing coordination services to 111 individuals. Housing Coordination includes support with shelter placement, housing applications, finding units to rent, support with getting ID/live documents.

CORE’s impact in Martinez is highlighted in our exits: 8 individuals were placed into shelter (47%), 1 individual moved into a rental unit (5.88%), 1 individual moved in with friends on a temporary basis (5.88%), 1 individual moved in with friends on a permanent basis (5.88%), 1 went into a substance abuse treatment facility and 5 had no exit completed (29%). During this reporting period, the Martinez team made 66 placements into the Concord Warming Center.

In total, 71% (12 individuals) of those who exited from the Martinez CORE team went to a positive destination and on average, 4 individuals transitioned from the streets into a permanent or temporary housing destination per month this quarter. CORE adheres to the Contra Costa Continuum of Care (CoC) Program Models and Performance Standards (link below), which establishes clear performance expectations, measures, and benchmarks and states that street outreach programs should have a goal of 35% of exits going to a temporary or permanent destination. The Martinez CORE team exceeded the goal by 36%. Additionally, none of the individuals that were exited from CORE this quarter returned to homeless within 6 months of exit

Section Two: CORE Updates

As of July 1, 2023, CORE launched daytime services during weekend hours and we are now offering services from 8am-12am, seven days a week. Additionally, the Concord Service Center has also added daytime weekend hours to compliment CORE’s hours of operation. The Concord Service Center is the only drop-in program that offers showers, laundry, meals and mail services during weekend hours and has been a valuable resource for the weekend CORE teams.

The Martinez CORE team increased our hours of operation from 20 hours per week to 40 hours per week, moving the team from part-time to full time on 7/1/2023. During this period, CORE welcomed a new Outreach Worker for the Martinez Team. Some of the notable updates this quarter include the implementation of bi-monthly Operations meetings with Chief White and CORE Management. These meetings have been instrumental in keeping open lines of communication and has helped CORE target areas that have the highest need in the city, and it has also helped to coordinate services between Martinez PD and CORE.

Another update is that the team is calling into Martinez dispatch at the beginning of their shift to divert calls regarding unhoused persons to CORE, instead of a police officer. The team has had a consistent presence downtown and on Main Street. Rebecca Sanders, CORE Program Coordinator, has performed outreach to the businesses in the downtown area on and around Main Street on a weekly basis. The team has received their high visibility vests and have already found that they are helping to improve the safety and visibility of the team. We have also been able to leverage our new night/weekend teams to contact those who are camping on and near businesses once they have closed. The evening CORE Team has added Main Street to their nightly rounds, seven days a week.

Section Three: Program Successes

CORE’s management team met with Con Fire and coordinated how our agencies can help mitigate risk and support unhoused residents in high fire areas. Con Fire reported that they have collaborated with the Martinez CORE Team on several occasions and provided feedback that the team is very responsive and has coordinated services on multiple occasions. This is achieved through direct contact with CORE management and dispatching a team to educate clients in high risk areas regarding ways to avoid fires, such as avoiding cooking and disposing of combustible organic matter or flammable products.

Another system level success is that H3 leadership is actively working with Psychiatric Emergency Services (PES) at the Contra Costa Regional Medical Center (CCRMC) to coordinate services for those discharging from inpatient and/or PES when the individual is unhoused. We have been able to coordinate shelter placement for individuals that may have otherwise discharged to an unhoused destination.

Unhoused Martinez Resident Success Story:

CORE has been planting seeds and building trust with an individual in the City of Martinez for the past five years. The individual has a history of complex trauma and addiction and has struggled to build trust with providers and was hesitant to provide personal information to CORE. CORE staff was finally able to do an intake after four and a half years and helped the person obtain a phone, file for benefits, CalFresh, and Medi-Cal insurance. This was a huge step for the individual, and these services can support the individual in moving into more stable housing. CORE continues to check in weekly to assist with next steps of applying for Social Security Disability Income (SSDI). The CORE team continues to encourage the individual to consider a shelter bed while they are seeking to establish income, and eventually permanent housing.

Section four: Challenges & Resolutions

Hiring of the second Outreach Specialist took longer than anticipated. Fortunately, CORE has a team of on-call staff that supported full-time until we were able to onboard the new Outreach Specialist. During this time, we did not have a disruption in services.

One consistent barrier we encounter is not having enough shelter beds or substance abuse treatment beds for those who want to come inside and/or get help with their addiction.

Another challenge is that when a shelter bed is available and offered, some report that they only want to go to a hotel room, or their own housing, which is often not available. Contra Costa County has a 2% vacancy rate, which impacts our ability to move people into housing based on the lack of availability, and for those with low income, or poor rental history, it makes housing placements more challenging. Housing those who are chronically homeless and often have very low to no income are barriers CORE is experienced with and does not deter us from continuing to take the steps needed to find housing for those in the community who are most vulnerable and at risk

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MODERATE November 7, 2023 - 7:41 am

CORE is a snappy little acronym that means nothing. But what IS CORE exactly? Even the City of Martinez’ website, which mentions it, fails to explain. I presume its another nonprofit that is receiving lots of tax dollars. Who or what is providing oversight over how that money is spent? Citing statistics on numbers of “contacts” is just not adequate.

Street Sweeper November 7, 2023 - 7:56 am

Core is a total scam! This article tells you all you need to know about them. A BS game plan with no oversight and no long term answers. Just another money grab! What a joke!

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