Calexico Chronicle / IV Weekly

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Calexico Mayor Has ‘Productive’ Inaugural Meetings on Census, Homeless

September 6, 2019

     Calexico city officials and homeless advocates set a proposed short-term agenda that includes focusing efforts to expand and renovate the Catholic Charities men’s shelter in the city and establishing a combination homeless shelter and cooling center downtown, Mayor Bill Hodge said.


     In census-related matters, Calexico will apply for $17,000 in funding from the county through the city census subcommittee’s subcontracted community-based organization, Campesinos Unidos Inc. The funds would be used to conduct community outreach and education in hopes of increasing local participation in the 2020 Census, Hodge added.


     Hodge’s two new initiatives --- increasing census counts in Calexico’s “hardest to count” neighborhoods and advancing help to the city’s homeless population --- resulted in consecutive inaugural meetings Aug. 26 and 27, respectively, in what he described as “productive” sessions.


     “Both (meetings) were very positive, productive, and taking steps towards realizing our goals and objectives for both areas and subject matters,” the mayor said during an interview with this newspaper on Sept. 4.


     The most headway came from Hodge’s so-called “Calexico Homeless Committee” meeting on Aug. 27, where the committee identified two short-term goals and one long-term objective. The committee is made up of city officials and local homeless advocacy organizations, including Catholic Charities, Neighborhood House, Calexico Housing Authority, the Brown Bag Coalition and veterans’ representatives.


     The first goal, Hodge said, is for the committee to look at ways to grant fund an expansion of Catholic Charities’ Our Lady of Guadalupe Men’s Shelter by increasing the bed count. There is also a need for improvements such as a new air-conditioning unit for the facility at 545 Encinas Ave.


     The second goal, he said, is to approach Valley Orthopedic Clinic in downtown Calexico about the possibility of relocating the clinic to a portable trailer provided by the committee, and using Valley Orthopedic’s offices at 352 E. First St. to establish a combination men’s shelter and extreme-weather center.


     The extreme-weather center would be used to protect the homeless from the high daytime temperatures in the summer and early fall, and the frigid conditions overnight during the winter, Hodge explained. That would also involve seeking grant funding, he added.


     Valley Orthopedic has yet to be contacted, Hodge advised, further explaining that it is an idea in its infancy. The clinic came up because of its location and the fact that the organization is not all that active anymore, Hodge said.


     But Catholic Charities is on board and in need of the assistance, Hodge said.


     In both cases, Hodge said the committee will consider going to the county Board of Supervisors to apply for Community Benefit Program grant funds or the Imperial Irrigation District’s Local Entity program funding.


     Community Benefit is funded through a fee paid by solar-energy developers, while the IID’s Local Entity program funding is a result of contributions paid to IID by the San Diego County Water Authority to offset job losses as a result of the agencies’ water transfer agreement.


     Also, in both cases, a dollar amount the committee will go after has not been determined. The committee will meet again on Sept. 17.


     Brown Bag Coalition, which feeds the homeless daily, will arrange and invite county supervisors Jesus Escobar and Ray Castillo, and IID board officials, to tour the men’s shelter. A date for such a tour has not been set, Hodge said. Escobar represents District 1, the majority of which includes Calexico, and Castillo’s District 5 represents a northeastern portion of the city.


     The long-term goal, Hodge added, is to build a brand-new men’s shelter in the city. It’s only being discussed for the first time, he said.


     What Hodge said is most important is that homeless advocacy organizations are collaborating for the first time. Often, Hodge alleged, the nonprofits have been provincial in their approach.


     As far as the city’s census subcommittee, its membership, which includes city administration, Campesinos Unidos and Neighborhood House so far, heard from Arturo Hernandez of the U.S. Census Bureau on Aug. 26.


     Hodge said Hernandez provided the subcommittee with his “three-phase approach” to reaching out to the city’s most difficult-to-count populations, or what is called “hard-to-count census tracts.” Calexico has the five most difficult tracts to count in Imperial County, the mayor said.


     Hernandez’s first phase is “education and awareness,” followed by “key messaging” and ending with “motivation.”


     Hodge said education and awareness involve a course of action and the material needed to educate and inform. Key messaging, he said, is to establish trust in the process and to “not be fearful” of efforts by the government to count people.


     Motivation refers to “trying various approaches to getting people out of their homes” to be counted, Hodge explained.


     The subcommittee also heard from Deputy Imperial County Executive Officer Esperanza Colio-Warren. She spoke on funding and timelines, Hodge said. Colio-Warren heads up the umbrella census group, Imperial County 2020 Census Complete Count Committee.


     The county received a $250,000 grant from the state, $156,000 of which is going to individual cities’ efforts to increase the count. That equates to $17,000 per city, Hodge said.


     That money will go to Campesinos Unidos, who will “immediately” prepare the request for proposal for the county funding on the city’s behalf, Hodge explained. That money will fund printed materials to be used in the education and awareness campaign.


     The 2020 Census count starts in April. For the first time, there will be both the traditional door-to-door method of counting individuals, and an online option residents can access through computer kiosks in key locations, Hodge said.


     He added Calexico so far has identified the Community Center, the library and city hall as kiosk locations.


     The next meeting of the subcommittee is Sept. 10, Hodge said.

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