Updated: Jul 20, 2020
Last week, we (Council Members Lamar Thorpe and Joy Motts) proposed to lease the Antioch Executive Inn to reduce homeless encampments in Antioch. The goal is to use the facility as bridge housing while residents work with the county and nonprofit homeless providers to obtain permanent housing. The hotel has 32 rooms including laundry facilities, security, office space for homeless services providers and space for any overnight staff and volunteers.
As members of the Antioch Homeless Encampment Task Force, we have learned a lot about the growing homeless crisis in our city, state and country. This crisis is not unique to Antioch. In the last year and a half, we’ve had to grapple with and deconstruct our own unfounded notions of homelessness.
Unlike west and central Contra Costa County, East County has no infrastructure dedicated to homelessness. This reality makes it extremely difficult for the county, state and any nonprofit service provider to get the necessary resources to our region to deal with the growing number of residents experiencing homelessness. These services are critical because there is not a one size fits all approach.
The reality is no two individuals experience being homeless the same way. Some have a mental health challenge, some do not. Some are living with addiction, others are not. Some spend time at a shelter, while others sleep in business doorways, cars at our local parks, or encampments that have become ubiquitous to North and Southwest Antioch.
It is unlikely that any two people have the same path to being housed. Some will find long term stability by reconnecting with family or friends. Others will find new housing, get a new job, or connect with benefits that quickly allow them to be housed on their own. Some will need more intensive support like rapid rehousing or permanent supportive solutions to help them find housing, pay for it, and maintain it.
What we have come to accept is the reality that residents who are experiencing homelessness share one thing in common: they do not have a safe or appropriate place to live. Waldie Plaza, the banks of the Delta, the railroad tracks and the strip malls by Delta Fair Drive or 18th and A Streets and more are not appropriate places for anyone to live, yet we pump millions of dollars every year into chasing people from one of these encampment sites to another with nothing to show the public.
Yet, there is one thing that can resolve anyone’s homelessness crisis: permanent housing.
The City of Antioch is not and does not want to be in the business of permanent housing. But we can play a meaningful role by providing “bridge” housing, which is housing designed to move people closer to a permanent housing solution in partnership with the county.
Our proposal is also in line with “housing first” principles, shared values of both the city and county. The “housing first” principle rests on the premise that homelessness is a problem and the solution is permanent housing for everyone. The solution applies whether you follow the rules or not, whether you are “compliant” with treatment or not, whether you have a criminal record or not, or whether you have been on the streets for one day or 10 years. Permanent housing is what ends homelessness.
Again, what we are proposing is bridge housing, not permanent housing. But even bridge housing gives us a chance to reduce the expensive, futile cycle of chasing people experiencing homelessness from corner to corner. And it gives those a platform from which they can seek assistance, so they can grow and thrive in their community. In other words, it’s a start.
Council Members Lamar Thorpe and Joy Motts