Riverside county seeks to counter an increase in homeless population

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According to a survey conducted by Riverside County released on April 12, 2017, there are currently around 2,413 homeless adults and children residing in Riverside. This is an increase from the 2,165 people that were homeless in 2016. This increase comes from the fluctuation of local economics and the increase in the cost of housing. According to the survey, 1,638 people are unsheltered while 775 people are sheltered.

The survey was conducted due to a federally mandated count on January 24, 2017. The survey consisted of around 500 volunteers from the community and around 130 agencies canvassing areas that were predetermined to contain homeless individuals.

In order to help with the increasing number of homeless individuals, organizations like the Riverside-based Path of Life Ministries have been working to provide shelter, food and clothing for the homeless.

Damien O’Farrell, the CEO of Path of Life Ministries, explained that Path of Life provides not only shelter, but food and emergency clothing to homeless people in need. Currently, Path of Life is providing housing and shelter to over 1,300 homeless people annually with a majority of those being housed through a shelter program that the ministry offers. Additionally, over 200 people are being provided actual housing that could potentially be permanent. Since the ministry started offering housing and shelter to the homeless in 2003, the program has been consistently full.

The shelters that Path of Life provides are meant to be utilized for around 30 nights in order to help those using them reach self-sufficiency. However, if an individual has shown progress, then they could potentially stay in the shelter for up to 90 days. This decision is made on a case-by-case basis which is determined by the managers at each shelter. The individuals in the housing program can use it “essentially indefinitely” according to O’Farrell. He continued, “What we are trying to do is provide a pathway (to self-sustainability).”

Path of Life provides services to all homeless individuals in varying degrees of severity, whether they be families, individuals or individuals with mental illness or drug addiction. For drug addicts and the mentally ill, Path of Life also assists the individual with finding a rehabilitation service and medical help.

The ministry also works closely in helping veterans find shelter and other basic necessities. This could mean just food and clothing, but could also include finding help if they suffer from posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

The majority of Path of Life’s funding for housing and shelter comes from federal grants given to Riverside county that are then donated to the ministry.

Riverside Mayor Rusty Bailey told the Highlander, via email, “The City of Riverside’s Homeless Street Outreach Team regularly engages with our homeless neighbors to provide services and solutions. Our faith-based organizations have stepped forward and are committed to partnering to provide trained support services. To effectively decrease the number of neighbors without homes in our community, we must increase housing options. We cannot solve homelessness without housing.”

The City of Riverside is also making an effort when it comes to helping homeless people get off the streets. Director of the UCR Center for Sustainable Suburban Development and former Riverside Mayor Ronald Loveridge explained that the City has various policies and task forces that are meant to assist the homeless. The City is also working closely with various religious organizations in order to help hem expand their programs that aid the homeless.

The funding for these programs, Loveridge explained, comes from the federal government’s Housing and Urban Development Department (HUD).

In President Donald Trump’s proposed budget plan for 2018, “A New Foundation for American Greatness,” HUD’s budget will be cut by around $6.2 billion. This could potentially decrease the funding for the Path of Life Ministries by the City of Riverside.

Loveridge also emphasized the importance of not just looking at the homeless as being in need, but also look at low-income households.

“You visually see homeless. You don’t see low-income, (intensive) housing, inadequate facilities. You don’t see millennials unable to buy first homes. You don’t see that. You see homeless,” Loveridge explained.

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