The No Place Like Home Program was enacted by former California Governor Jerry Brown in 2016. The program dedicates up to $2 billion in bond proceeds to invest in the development of permanent supportive housing for people who are in need of mental health services and are experiencing homelessness, chronic homelessness, or who are at risk of chronic homelessness.

The Siskiyou County 10 Year Plan to End Homelessness was approved by the Siskiyou County Board of Supervisors on July 2. The board concurrently approved allowing the California Department of Housing and Community Development to reserve $500,000 for the county to invest in housing for the mentally ill and chronically homeless. The county would have to apply for the funding from the No Place Like Home Program in order to receive it.

The No Place Like Home Program was enacted by former California Governor Jerry Brown in 2016. The program dedicates up to $2 billion in bond proceeds to invest in the development of permanent supportive housing for people who are in need of mental health services and are experiencing homelessness, chronic homelessness, or who are at risk of chronic homelessness. The bonds are repaid by funding from the Mental Health Services Act.

Siskiyou County has been awarded a technical assistance grant to get the program off the ground and has been working with Sherry Morgado, a community development manager with Housing Tools, a housing and community development consulting firm based in Sacramento, California.

Morgado explained to the supervisors that there are two types of allocations in the program. With non-competitive allocation, the county can receive up to $500,000. With competitive allocation, the county would compete for funding within categories of like-sized counties. The maximum funding amount per housing project is $20 million, which is a combination of competitive and non-competitive allocations.

It is expected that the county would eventually partner with a development sponsor that would develop, own and manage the housing units, Morgado said. The development sponsor would execute a loan agreement with the state. The county would be required to execute a standard agreement with the state which would lay out how the housing funds could be used. The county would then enter into a Memorandum of Understanding or a similar document with the development sponsor.

Each county that applies for No Place Like Home funds must also commit to providing behavioral health support services to tenants within the special housing units for a minimum of 20 years. The county would also be responsible for facilitating the tenants’ access to other community support services.

The development sponsor would assist the county in finding other sources of funding as well, Morgado noted. Those sources would likely include low income housing tax credits. The Federal Home Loan Bank has an affordable housing program which could also help finance the project.

“This is affordable housing designed for individuals with multiple medical, mental health and/or substance use disorders that are all co-occurring,” Morgado detailed. The housing is specifically geared toward individuals who would not be able to successfully maintain housing otherwise. There is no time limit on tenant residency. Their entrance into a housing unit typically begins with a 12 month lease which then becomes month-to-month. The units are not free; tenants must pay rent that is deemed affordable for them.

These housing units have been shown to decrease the use of emergency shelters, hospitals and prisons, Morgado told the board.

Siskiyou County Behavioral Health Director Sarah Collard noted that Behavioral Health currently houses clients in hotel rooms, which is neither cost effective nor conducive to recovery.

Testing clean for drugs or alcohol is not a condition of the lease agreements. The idea, Morgado described, is that with the help of case management services, tenants can begin to take advantage of sobriety services to wean themselves off of substances over time.

There are still many steps in the process before construction of the housing units could begin. The construction phase is likely at least three years away, Morgado said.

The supervisors – minus absent District 4 Supervisor Lisa Nixon – voted unanimously to move forward with the project. Board Chair Brandon Criss reflected, “This is a population we’re already trying to stabilize and serve so this is just improving how we do it.”