The money will come from the American Rescue Plan Act, federal legislation to inject cash into communities impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Much of the money is being earmarked for a more robust housing plan that is designed to increase rental units and help people at risk of homelessness hold on to their housing.
The money will fund five different approaches. About $2.6 million will go to the Community Housing Connection service, which locates existing properties and provides incentives to landlords to rent to people with rental vouchers. The county claims this has been a "proven" model in other communities.
According to the county, the service focuses on increasing the number of permanent housing units available to those experiencing homelessness or who may be at risk of losing their housing. The success of the program will be measured in how many property managers are added and the number of voucher holders that gained housing.
A new Lived Experience Peer support program will receive $620,000. This program pairs formerly homeless individuals with others experiencing homelessness and helps them navigate housing and job opportunities. The program spans the county and is operated by West County Community Services.
The success of this program will be measured by its number of participants and whether they report having received useful assistance, as well as the number of participants who secured and maintained stable housing.
Short-term help will come in the form of $850,000 in Emergency Flexible Funds, which assist with things like helping someone with a tank of gas, car repair or registration (to help them get to work or school), or a few nights in a motel. Some of the money can also go to interim housing solutions, the county said. Operators of the program will have to report back about how many people became housed with its help and how many people did not return to homelessness in a year.
Sonoma County 211 will receive $250,000 to improve its homelessness prevention activities. County residents can call the number and receive direct assistance, though the county admits the service could be "more robust." Metrics will be monitored regarding the number of calls that come in, how many people who used the service retained housing and how many people secured permanent housing.
Finally, $200,000 will go to help implement the county's five-year strategic plan to tackle homelessness.