Antioch’s bridge housing for unsheltered residents seeing successes

Antioch’s bridge housing for unsheltered residents seeing successes

Nearly nine months after launching Antioch’s first bridge housing program, the nonprofit that runs it says it has nearly hit its 12-month goal of serving 90 unhoused residents — with dozens more still on a waiting list.

The city’s unhoused resident coordinator, Jazmin Ridley, at a special City Council meeting on Tuesday called the results of the program “great,” noting they have been able to get people, pets and possessions into households and “give them some opportunities.”

Three years in the making, the transitional housing program opened last May at the former Executive Inn, now Dubbed Opportunity Village, and aims to help unsheltered adults get off the streets and out of encampments. The residents are provided with wrap-around services at the city-leased hotel before they are moved into permanent housing.

“Opportunity Village is a program that is touching dozens of lives in so many positive ways,” Darrell Olson, program manager, told the City Council in an update on Tuesday. “We’re moving quickly and efficiently.”

So far the 32-room Opportunity Village on East 18th Street is running at more than an 80 percent success rate, Olson said, noting his Bay Area Community Services (BACS) nonprofit also helps residents with jobs and down payments at their new homes. By comparison, Contra Costa County’s similar Delta Landing program in Pittsburg has a 74 percent success rate, officials said.

So far, 54 participants have gone through the program, with 42 transitioning to permanent housing and six looking for it now. Another 12 people have either been discharged because they didn’t obey the rules, were violent or simply left. Thirty-four others are currently in the program receiving transitional housing services, Ridley said.

The non-congregational housing center can house 45 residents at a time – and up to 135 a year – who are allowed to stay anywhere from 120 to 180 days, according to staff reports.

“For many of them, it’s their first time, first time having a full-time job, the first time holding their own keys to their own house and they are excited,” Olson said. “I wish I could bring you the videos of the tears of joy, of the smiles, of the hugs, of everything that we are experiencing because you guys said yes to touching lives in positive ways.”

Gary Tia, associate director of programming, added that the program follows all U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development guidelines and files quarterly reports to the city. A total of 250 are currently on the waitlist, Tia said.

“The need is there and we’re trying our best to help our unhoused population with whatever resources we have,” he said.

Those resources, however, could soon run out as the program was funded with one-time American Rescue Plan Act money, which covers the $1.17 million a year it costs to lease the motel. Those federal funds also provided $2.56 million over two years for BACS to provide the supportive services, including on-site staff around the clock. The contract runs through April 2025.

Ridley added that the city will be seeking state grants to continue the program through the Encampment Resolution Fund, a $750 million-push by Gov. Gavin Newsom’s administration to clear homeless encampments.

Mayor Lamar Hernandez-Thorpe, meanwhile, said he knows of no other city in Contra Costa County that is using its own money to run such a program, which he said has not only aided the unhoused but reduced crime at a hotel that previously had issues with prostitution and drugs.

Not everyone agrees on the location, however. Andrew Becker, a homeless advocate, said the city should move the program to the Economy Inn across the street because it has kitchens.

Antioch resident Frank Sterling, meanwhile, said he thinks more than 250 people, including a longtime unhoused friend, are waiting for a room at Opportunity Village.

“It just gets scary to see my friend slip away as his health and his mental state deteriorate,” Sterling said.

For her part, Councilwoman Lori Ogorchock said while she wanted to help the unhoused, she earlier voted against Opportunity Village because it was only funded on a short-term basis.

“We cannot sustain those programs with the budget that we have,” she said. “I do appreciate the work that you’re doing… but I have to think big picture instead of small picture.”

Opportunity Junction’s program manager has suggested that the city find more funding for the program through the county, which has monies for homeless services.

“I think that it’s very important that we partner with Contra Costa County about the funding streams that they have available,” Olson said.