City of Redwood City Homeless Outreach and Services
Various City departments are involved to assist our homeless community and offer a network of support, in collaboration with service providers and other local agencies.
This blog shares information about the City’s efforts to support our homeless community, including support offered at the Fair Oaks Community Center and efforts to connect homeless community members with service providers at the Downtown library, the Countywide collaborative approach to support homeless individuals and families, and the role of the Redwood City Police Department, Redwood City Fire Department, and Redwood City Public Works Services Department to address homeless encampments. This blog also provides three success stories of homeless individuals within the community who have received help.
Connecting Our Homeless with City Services and Other Support
The Fair Oaks Community Center is the City’s hub for offering a network of services to homeless families and individuals as well as other basic needs services. Services for the homeless or for those who are at risk of becoming homeless include: access to the county’s homeless services system — including emergency housing or shelter, financial assistance to prevent and/or end homelessness, transportation assistance, food assistance, shower and laundry access, clothing assistance, and meeting other basic needs as they arise.
The City’s Human Services staff and County/non-profit agency partners provide services to homeless individuals at the Fair Oaks Community Center including:
o Information and Referral Program –Providing drop-in services Monday through Friday during regular business hours.
o Coordinated Entry System (CES) — A CES Specialist from Samaritan House is available Monday — Friday to help homeless families and individuals access housing, including emergency housing or shelter.
o St. Vincent de Paul Redwood City Homeless Conference — An all-volunteer agency provides emergency food and other basic needs Monday through Friday, 1:15–2:15 p.m.
o Dignity on Wheels –A project of WeHOPE shelter, Dignity on Wheels provides mobile shower and laundry services on Monday and Wednesday afternoons. The City coordinates additional shower facilities at the Hoover Pool Facility on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 7 a.m. — 10 a.m.
o Sandwiches on Sundays — An all-volunteer program provides lunch on Sundays in the backyard of the Fair Oaks Community Center.
In addition, the City participates in the Redwood City Homeless Outreach Team (HOT). HOT a collaborative of the Fair Oaks Community Center and the Redwood City Police Department together with the County of San Mateo’s Center on Homelessness, Behavioral Health and Recovery Services Department, and the Department of Housing, as well as non-profit partners such as LifeMoves, Salvation Army, Street Life Ministries, and Mental Health Association. The HOT Team develops outreach and engagement strategies with a focus on reducing chronic homelessness in our community.
In 2017, the Fair Oaks Community Center Information and Referral Program assisted 651 homeless households — 106 families with children and 545 adult households without children. In addition, the program assisted another 251 households at risk of becoming homeless — 132 families with children and 119 adult households without children. Assistance provided included referrals to shelter, financial assistance to return to permanent housing or maintain existing housing, transportation assistance, and food assistance.
Recently, the Redwood City Public Library and the South Community Service Area (CSA) added social service “office hours” at the Downtown Library. Community members seeking help with housing, mental health or barriers to assistance can visit the Downtown Library on Tuesdays from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. Agencies involved include San Mateo County Behavioral Health Recovery Services, El Centro de Libertad, LifeMoves, Heart & Soul, Inc. and Street Life Ministries. The Redwood City Public Library is evaluating expanding social service “office hours” to Tuesday afternoons in order to meet demand from additional agencies who wish to connect with community members at the Downtown Library.
In addition, the Redwood City Fire Department responds one to two times a day on average to provide emergency medical services to homeless community members in need.
For Downtown library social service “office hours” and more, go here.
For information related to the Redwood City Fire Department, go here.
Homeless Community Encampments
Various City departments are involved with maintaining homeless community encampments to protect all members of the community from harm, keep garbage and other refuge levels down and minimize the risk of fires.
The City recognizes the challenges associated with chronic homelessness. The Redwood City Police Department trains its Police Officers to be prepared, play a constructive role in mitigating the challenges of homelessness, and connect homeless individuals with services whenever possible. At least one homeless liaison officer, a specially trained member who takes the lead on connecting homeless individuals with resources and social services, complements each patrol team. These homeless liaison officers meet regularly with members of the San Mateo County Homeless Outreach Teams, placement service providers and mental health service providers to ensure officers remain aware of current opportunities to place homeless individuals in short-term, mid-term and permanent housing.
The Police Department also coordinates with Street Life Ministries, an organization that serves the homeless and at-risk populations in the San Francisco Bay Area. Street Life Ministries collaborates with the Police Department to provide other services, such as hot meals and clothing. By forming relationships with homeless members of the community and providing them resources, Redwood City Police Department staff are able to assist these community members out of homeless encampments and direct them to further support services, when possible.
The Redwood City Police Department takes an active role in monitoring and cleaning up homeless encampments when possible. Cleaning up encampments is complex and the approach is different depending on whether the property is City-owned, private or State-owned. This is an ongoing issue but generally, the Police Department’s Community Coordinating Activities Team and the Public Work Services Department coordinate the cleanup of encampments. These efforts to maintain these areas of the community protect all members of the community from harm and seek to keep garbage and other refuse levels down.
The Redwood City Fire Department responds to fires in encampments and fire crews provide emergency medical services to those injured. Homeless community members that need medical attention at local hospitals receive other support services as well. The Redwood City Fire Department investigates all fires in encampments to determine the cause of fires and reduce future fire risk. The fire crews work with homeless community members to address these risks as much as possible. The Redwood City Fire Department and the Redwood City Police Department work together to notify San Mateo County Adult Protective Services or Child Protective Services when needed.
In addition, the Police Department developed Project Safe, a program to address issues at Sequoia Station, including homelessness. The Department has begun working with homeless support services in an attempt to pair services with prospective homeless clients on the spot whenever possible. To learn more about Project Safe, go here.
To learn about the Redwood City Police Department, go here, for the Redwood City Fire Department, go here, for the Redwood City Public Library Social Service “Office Hours” go here, and for the Public Works Department, go here.
Through the work of City staff in partnership with service providers, community members have been able to secure housing and gain the help they need to stay in long-term housing, ending the cycle of homelessness. Here are a few success stories. Note: to protect client confidentiality, names are changed.
John is a 66-year-old who was homeless when he first came to the Fair Oaks Community Center in November 2015. Over the last couple of years, he has been homeless off and on — sometimes staying in local shelters, but mostly with family and friends whenever he could, renting a room here or there. John struggled with finding a place of his own that he could afford to rent on his social security retirement income of $1700/month. Fortunately, he signed up on the wait list for subsidized senior housing and came back to the Fair Oaks Community Center in September 2017 when his name was at the top of the wait list. He would be paying $641/month for his rent and the mandatory meal plan, or just a little over 30% of his income. Because he had not had time to save up to pay the move-in costs, Fair Oaks Community Center was able to assist him and allow him to take advantage of this opportunity to stabilize his housing for the future.
Juan is a 58-year-old man who had been chronically homeless for over 12 years, in and out of encampments, shelter, and periodic stays with family. The HOT team developed a strategy to work with Juan towards ending his homelessness. Because of his familiarity and trust of the staff at the Fair Oaks Community Center, he began to work with Fair Oaks staff and our community partners to address the multiple health, mental health, and substance abuse issues that were obstacles to him seeking and maintaining permanent housing. After working with him for over two years, the Fair Oaks Community Center was able to assist him in securing subsidized housing. He continues to work with a community partner from one of the County’s health teams to facilitate his transition back to permanent housing and a productive life.
Jane and Andrew, a young couple with a 1-year-old child with a disability, became homeless when they had to leave the overcrowded housing situation where they had rented a room. They came to the Fair Oaks Community Center seeking shelter and staff referred them to the Redwood Family House Shelter in Redwood City. At the time, Andrew had lost his employment, but was actively seeking new employment and Jane had not been working due to the young age of their child. While at the shelter, both Andrew and Jane were able to secure employment and within a month and a half, moved to their own apartment with financial assistance from the Fair Oaks Community Center.
Additional Online Resources
To learn more about San Mateo County homeless programs, go here.
To learn about City programs supporting our local homeless community, go here.
To learn about the City’s efforts to support affordable housing, go here.
To learn about upcoming community conversations about housing, go here.