Thursday, Aug. 02, 2012
Merced County supervisor steps up for homeless
By Thaddeus Miller / firstname.lastname@example.org
A program for the homeless denied local funding this summer may get a second chance next week.
Jerry O'Banion, District 5 supervisor, said he has recommended $15,000 to cover Los Banos' share of the Merced County Association of Governments' Continuum of Care 10-year Plan to End Homelessness. The allocation is pending approval Tuesday by the Merced County Board of Supervisors, O'Banion said Wednesday during a City Council meeting.
"I feel that Los Banos needs to continue to be part of the organization ... I'm willing to step up and provide the funding," O'Banion said. "(I hope) they realize the value that is provided through MCAG to help with the issue that is in all of our communities."
In June, the Los Banos City Council pulled its budgeted $12,000 from Continuum with a 3-2 vote. The program's grant writer has brought $281,000 to Los Banos over two years, and $2.5 million countywide.
The City Council's move has drawn criticism from advocates for the homeless, and repeated pleas by the The Salvation Army to reconsider the decision. Those pleas continued Wednesday in the open forum, before O'Banion made his announcement.
O'Banion said the money, which includes an extra $3,000, comes with the caveat that Los Banos and Dos Palos are involved in Continuum.
"I want (Dos Palos) to decide on whether or not they want to participate," O'Banion said. "(I hope) they will, but I know different people have different ideas on who should take care of the homeless."
The $15,000, if approved, would come from Special Board Project Funds of which O'Banion has stacked $200,000. Each supervisor gets money of varying amounts for the fund annually -- this year it was $40,000.
Mayor Mike Villalta thanked O'Banion during the meeting. Continuum has been funded for two years by the city of Merced and Merced County, and last year by Los Banos. No other cities in the county have contributed.
"I'm hoping that the other supervisors and individuals in their cities will follow suit, to make everyone part of this," Villalta said.
Villalta voted to pull the money in June because, he said, it came from the city's general fund and didn't go directly to homeless services but to a grant writer.
Steve Hammond, who ran the now-defunct Los Banos Rescue Mission, said the city will continue to have issues for funding from groups like Housing and Urban Development until it has more transitional housing.
"To qualify for that funding, you have to have an organization that is doing transitional housing -- you have to be prepared to receive it," Hammond said.
A homeless count in January found one homeless person in Atwater, 14 in Livingston, 75 in Los Banos and 190 in Merced. Gustine, Dos Palos and the county's unincorporated areas weren't included in the tally.
O'Banion has dipped into his fund before for projects, including the Los Banos Cemetery's pavillion, the Los Banos Fairgrounds' paneled pins and refurbishing the George Washington Carver Center in South Dos Palos.
In other action, the council unanimously approved spending at least $3,026 to send Villalta, Mayor Pro-Tem Scott Silveira and City Attorney William Vaughn to the League of California Cities conference in San Diego next month.
Enterprise reporter Thaddeus Miller can be reached at (209) 388-6562 or by email at tmiller@losbanos enterprise.com.