Imperial County Tackles Countywide Homeless Issue
A makeshift shelter belonging to a homeless person is shown at Stark Field Park in El Centro. | CORISSA IBARRA PHOTO

County Creates New Post to Tackle Countywide Homelessness

IMPERIAL COUNTY — Imperial County saw a 22 percent increase in homeless people between 2017 and 2019.

According to a June iNewsource article, the county’s homeless population has sharply increased and remained high. As COVID-19 hit, nearly 1,200 homeless residents were reported to be without temporary or emergency housing.

The county has also been under fire as almost $1.7 million earmarked for homeless services in the region was not being used.

But the county is looking to move forward in a more positive way.

A new job was approved, but not yet funded, by the Imperial County Board of Supervisors at its Oct. 27 meeting. Staff are preparing to present a strategy to fund the position at the board’s Nov. 10 meeting. 

The basic function of the position, human resources director Rodolfo Aguayo said, is to implement a countywide strategic plan to address homelessness, which includes planning, organizing, and directing staff. 

More than 1,400 were reported homeless in the 2019 homeless count in Imperial County, according to the Department of Housing and Urban Development. That is 259 more than in 2017.

Of the 1,413 homeless in 2019, 33 percent were women, 4.3 percent were veterans, 20.7 percent were families with children, 4.9 percent were young adults ages 18 to 24, and 35 percent were chronically homeless, according to past Calexico Chronicle reports.

The Board of Supervisors is set to hear how the position will be paid for through grant funding at a meeting in November, but the first item passed the board with little discussion.

“I can remember we’ve had several emergencies where people all of a sudden become homeless, for example earthquakes, fires,” Supervisor Raymond Castillo said. “This is a much-needed program, and I’m glad to see we’re taking this kind of action.”

The job description was approved by the board 4-0, with Supervisor Ryan Kelley absent from the Oct. 27 meeting.

The county has faced backlash after regional media reported that a $1.7 million grant the county received from the state was not being spent yet. The grant was one-time funding approved more than a year ago to address housing issues. However, officials with the Imperial Valley Continuum of Care Council have said it has allocated and executed contracts to use all the state emergency homeless funding it received more than a year ago, contrary to those allegations.

This story is featured in the Nov 5, 2020 e-Edition.

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