A few Merced residents and members of the City Council this week publicly questioned the effectiveness of the Merced County group charged with ending homelessness, leading one of the group’s officials to attempt to clear up what he called “misinformation.”
While brainstorming ways to provide a warming shelter for the homeless in town, some of the council members were critical of what they perceived as a lack of success from Continuum of Care, a coalition of advocates working together to end homelessness in Merced County. The county contracts with the Pasadena-based nonprofit Urban Initiatives to run Continuum.
“This is my own personal opinion, my own observation – they’re not doing a good job,” Councilman Tony Dossetti said during the meeting.
The comments came during a more than hourlong discussion about the city’s lack of a warming shelter.
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The city of Merced pays about $38,000 a year to Continuum, according to city staff. Funding also comes from Merced County and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
In a letter sent to the council Thursday, Joe Colletti, the executive director of Urban Initiatives, outlined the Continuum’s efforts to organize and provide a shelter. Along with the letter, he attached agendas and meeting minutes that noted Continuum has been looking into providing the emergency shelter, as well as transitional and permanent housing.
He told the Sun-Star that the letter was an effort to clear up misinformation and prevent it from lingering. “I can tell you that the (Continuum) will continue to focus on solutions for preventing and ending homelessness including the provision of emergency assistance such as a winter warming center,” he wrote in an email.
Continuum of Care is working collaboratively with representatives from public and private agencies, including local faith-based organizations, to help establish those shelters, he said. The Continuum will be discussing the emergency shelter issue at its meetings in March and April, he said.
The 2014 Homeless Count and Survey reported 768 homeless people in Merced County. This year’s tally was conducted last month, but the numbers have not been made public yet.
The Merced County 10-Year Plan to End Homelessness was published in 2011. Data on the number of people who have been housed since then were not immediately available.
Mayor Stan Thurston said the city has all but confirmed plans for the warming shelter for this year on its own. By teaming with the Merced County Rescue Mission and other volunteers, the city will be able to provide the warming shelter in the parking lot of the old hospital, he said.
He expressed frustration with Continuum and what he said appears to be a lack of results. “At what point do we see an improvement in the homeless situation?” he asked.