Aiming to instill independence among CalWorks welfare-to-work clients, the county Board of Supervisors on July 17 authorized an agreement between county Social Services and the Imperial Valley Regional Occupational Program.
Paula Llanas, Social Service assistant director, sought the board's approval stating long-term housing is critical to help families and children avoid homelessness.
"Residential stability is needed to achieve self-sufficiency," said Llanas. "The housing-support program is necessary to shore up stability and helps children to succeed in school and parents in employment."
The motion to continue the $500,000 program for the 2018-19 fiscal that began July 1 was approved 4-0 with Supervisor Luis Plancarte absent.
The funds are a federal disbursement to the California Department of Social Services that is allocated to county Social Services, explained Gabriel Aguirre, IVROP coordinator, whose agency is the subcontracted provider.
This year 70 CalWorks clients receive housing support, but with dependents the total served exceeds 200. Of the 123 clients referred from 2017, there are 65 now in permanent housing, noted Aguirre.
There are three core elements to IVROP: career technical training, making connections to employers and family development and stabilization, the latter of which incudes housing. The idea is whenever one family member receives services the probability of success of that one member relies upon addressing the needs of the other members since they all depend on one another.
"We operate by a housing-first policy," said Aguirre, "since no matter which resources you're providing, when dealing with multiple barriers to self-sufficiency (drugs, criminal record, domestic violence or unemployment) when we remove the wheelhouse of worries for housing we provide a foundation from which to tackle other barriers to attain self-sufficiency."
The housing need was clarified by the January “point-in-time” count of the homeless population by the Imperial Valley Continuum of Care Council, explained Aguirre. The count found a 29-percent growth in the local homeless population in 2018. That follows a 25-percent growth in 2017.
"It's a natural progression of services and once you address unemployment (skill development/training) you see all the other barriers (removed) that prevent people from becoming self-sufficient," added Aguirre.
He added, "Still, a lot of people have the misconception that if you just get a person into employment they'll be self-sufficient. But reality is a lot of other needs have to be addressed for any one person to succeed. Yet every person is different, so there is no one-size-fits-all approach."
In other business the board approved 4-0 the signing of a professional-services agreement with Orbit Health, Inc. The contract is for $1 million and funded through federal and state resources so there is no financial impact to the county general fund, said Andrea Kuhlen, director of county Behavioral Health Services,
Orbit will provide psychiatric evaluations through video-conferencing and crisis engagement. It will evaluate Behavioral Health patients to determine if there is probable cause to place a 72-hour hold for involuntary treatment and conduct competency-to-stand-trial evaluations for county jail inmates as ordered by the court.