Local officials have become increasingly concerned about the issue of homelessness in recent years, and now, the task of addressing the problem has taken on even greater urgency because of the threat of the coronavirus pandemic.
The City of Fontana and San Bernardino County are working to prevent the spread of COVID-19 through the homeless population, officials said.
In Fontana, a program called Destination: Home was developed last year. The program, which has a primary function of street outreach, is continuing throughout the city, said Fontana Police Sgt. Kellen Guthrie.
"City staff visits local parks and encampments to make contact with people living on the streets. This way, we begin to form relationships with them so we can learn more about their needs and struggles in order to craft a plan to exit homelessness," according to the City of Fontana website.
The program has been able to get some people off the streets, although others remain.
Guthrie said the city recently partnered with San Bernardino County Behavioral Health HOST, which is an outreach-based program providing services in the field to engage chronically homeless individuals with mental illness into permanent supportive housing, according to the county website.
HOST is "a great resource on the County side to get help to those individuals who will accept it, but that is on a more broad scale and not just specifically related to COVID issues," Guthrie said.
He said that the Police Department recently "organized a food bank with CityLink and also handed out hygiene kits to help, along with some education regarding COVID."
CityLink provides a wide range of social services for needy persons throughout each year at 16757 Spring Street.
Guthrie said other local agencies and programs are also involved in the efforts to assist residents and keep them healthy, whether they are homeless or not.
----- SAN BERNARDINO COUNTY OFFICIALS are taking steps to help keep the homeless population safe from the coronavirus.
Although extensive plans have not yet been finalized, officials are making progress on the issue, according to David Wert, the county's public information officer.
"Many hotel owners have come forward offering their facilities to the county for the homeless," Wert said. "The county is also converting at least one unused county facility for housing the homeless and looking for others."
The county has been identifying funding and staffing sources, he said on March 23.
"Homeless services are funded by state and federal funds, so the county has to identify which state and federal funding streams are available and perhaps funding for other sources," he said.
----- GOV. GAVIN NEWSOM issued an executive order on March 18 allowing local governments to spend their emergency homelessness funding on COVID-19 in the homeless population, according to Rep. Norma Torres (D-35th District).
The governor also allocated $150 million of the state's $500 million in emergency funding to be used for local emergency homelessness actions, including:
• $100 million directly to local governments for shelter support and emergency housing to address COVID-19 among the homeless population;
• $50 million to purchase travel trailers and lease rooms in hotels, motels, and other facilities in partnership with counties and cities to provide immediate isolation placements throughout the state for homeless individuals.