UKIAH, 5/15/2017 — The question of showers for Ukiah’s homeless will be decided at the next meeting of the Sanitation District on Thursday, May 18.
The temporary winter homeless shelter at 1045 South State Street closed on May 1 — that means that, along with the 44 beds, shower and laundry facilities are no longer available. Now, the Homeless Services Action Group (HSAG), which ran the shelter, wants to relocate those showers temporarily to Plowshares, a nearby soup kitchen. HSAG’s plan for the winter shelter is to refurbish it as a homeless services center and seasonal shelter, which will include permanent year-round showers. The current temporary shower setup includes six shower heads and three sinks. At the winter shelter, two of the stalls were used for laundry facilities.
But things are not as straightforward as just running some new pipe and connecting showerheads. Though Plowshares is just a few blocks away, it’s located within the Ukiah Valley Sanitation District, a special sewer district which includes some properties that are within Ukiah city limits. And shelter operators were surprised to learn that the Sanitation District planned to charge far more than what they were prepared to pay for sewer hookups. “We were hoping to get away with $25,000 for six months,” said Anne Molgaard, chief operating officer of the county’s Health and Human Services Agency (HHSA). But then the price “went way up. That’s when we have to ask ourselves if that’s the best investment.” Molgaard said she plans to send an HHSA staff person to the Sanitation District meeting on Thursday to negotiate a price for the temporary showers at Plowshares.
Redwood Community Services (RCS), a member of HSAG, is in the process of purchasing the South State Street building, partly through a 2012 Community Development Block Grant to build a Tiny Houses village at 190 Orr Street. That property was sold to another buyer while RCS was working on environmental reviews, and is now up for sale again. RCS is now working on an updated agreement with the state agency that distributes federal block grants. During a board of supervisors budget workshop on May 15, Adrienne Thompson of Planning and Building Services told the board that the last paperwork sent by planning staff to the state was an agreement for the Tiny Houses village on Orr Street. “The state is not aware of the change of location or of the project description, so we’re working on a new agreement,” she reported.
Last year, the county set aside $100,000 for homeless services — but because the temporary shelter relied on other sources for its operation, that money can now be rolled over into next year’s budget for long-term solutions to homelessness, according to Deputy CEO Alan Flora.
In other items discussed at the Mendocino County Board of Supervisors budget workshop, the board directed staff to continue direct support to the fire districts in the amount of $398,000. The county will also budget $180,000 for continued direct support of advanced life support services in Anderson Valley, Covelo, and Long Valley. The building amnesty program will continue through December 31 of this year, and the board plans to place a transient occupancy tax for campgrounds on the next ballot. The board hopes to recover the general fund costs of administering the cannabis program, based on projections that 600 permittees will pay a minimum of $2.1 million in taxes per year.
Sarah Reith [email protected]