Homelessness report is made to council

HOMELESSNESS is a problem across the United States and world (Flickr/Hajee).

By Jim Tortolano

Housing issues dominated Wednesday’s meeting of the Westminster City Council as the panel members dealt with a status report on homelessness in the community as well as a request for a variance on a senior citizen’s board-and-care facility.

Brad Fieldhouse, executive director of City Net, a non-profit organization dedicated to the issues concerning transients in Westminster, spoke to the council at length on his organization’s efforts, including a census of the homeless population in the city.

According to City Net’s data:

  • 75 percent of the homeless interviewed either sleep somewhere in Westminster each night, or formerly had housing in Westminster.
  • 64 percent had no income
  • 68 percent had health insurance
  • 11 percent were military veterans.

The statistically typical homeless person, the council was told, was a white male in his 50s; many had a disability or substance abuse issue.

In summarizing the operations of the pilot program, City Net reported contacting 269 homeless people from March to August, with 58 of them in “intake” – beginning the process of finding homes – and 26 actually placed in temporary or permanent housing.

“Twenty-six? That’s not very impressive,” said Councilwoman Kimberly Ho. She was joined in her skepticism by Councilwoman Margie Rice, who suggested that the $7500 monthly paid to City Net might be better used in some other way.

But City Manager Eddie Manfro replied “I know that doesn’t seem like much, but that’s 26 lives that are in a better place,” urging patience with the program and asking that it be extended for three month months.

Ho said she would support that, but only if provided with more specific information about those placed.

While the only official council action was to receive and file the report, Mayor Tri Ta said that he was confident that the council would act to extend the contract with City Net.

Also Wednesday night, the council voted 5-0 to uphold a planning commission decision to reject the appeal of an applicant wanting a variance from a code requirement regarding garages. The operator of a senior citizen board-and-care home at 5191 Vallecito Ave. who expanded his facility from four bedrooms to six ran afoul of a requirement that a single-family residence with five or more bedrooms have a three-car garage.

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