Monterey and San Benito Counties, California (July 21, 2016):  The Coalition of Homeless Services Providers is pleased to announce the appointment of two new Associate Members by unanimous vote of the Board of Directors.

CHISPA:  The mission is “to improve people’s lives and create healthy neighborhoods by developing, selling, owning and managing affordable homes.”

Access Support Network:  The mission is “dedicated to meeting the needs of clients and providing prevention education for the community.  We assist and empower clients in negotiating access to healthcare and obtaining resources to enhance the quality of life for them and their families.”

The Coalition of Homeless Services Providers (CHSP) is a group of private nonprofit and public organizations working together to address the complex issue of homelessness.  Our mission is to “eliminate homelessness in Monterey and San Benito Counties by promoting interagency coordination to develop and sustain a comprehensive system of housing and support services designed to maximize the self-sufficiency of individuals and families.”  The programs of CHSP and its member agencies alleviate the human deprivation caused by family and individual homelessness and prevent the continuation of conditions of extreme poverty by breaking the cycle of homelessness.

Yellow Brick Road of Carmel Grants The Coalition $3,000!

Yellow Brick Road of Carmel Grants The Coalition $3,000!

We are pleased to announce that our organization has recently been awarded a generous grant from the Yellow Brick Road in Carmel to support our work. This gift is a big tribute to our fine programs!

Over its 25 years, the Yellow Brick Road Benefit Shops have donated more than $5 million to Monterey County nonprofits. To help continue this philanthropy, they need more volunteers. Please call (831) 626-8480 or visit


Monterey County homelessness: Trying to define the problem

Salinas >> When city contractors cleared out the homeless encampment in Chinatown this week, many of its residents said they were being stripped of their only place to live.

But where they lived had become dangerously unsanitary, government officials and homeless service providers said. The camp was reaching a crisis point, and the sweep was deemed necessary in the name of health and safety.

To those involved, the sweep was not seen as a solution to homelessness, but as an immediate action in a years-long pursuit of that solution.

Katherine Thoeni is the executive officer of the Coalition of Homeless Services Providers, the coordinating point of organizations, cities and counties involved in a 10-year plan to end homelessness. The nonprofit coalition’s very existence is required if cities and counties want federal and state funding, and to do that it needs to collect data. Lots of data.

That puts Thoeni in a position to see what the greatest obstacles are to ending homelessness. Her assessment: Monterey County’s lack of affordable housing.

“That realization is sinking in. We are working with county government and various jurisdictions to start that work,” she said. “But how we get from here to there is complicated, expensive and time consuming. And what we do in the meantime is also critical to make sure that we’re able to provide services to as many people as we possibly can in this community.”

The best place to start with any problem is to define it. One of the coalition’s main functions is to conduct a homeless census every two years, which involves a point-in-time count followed by a survey. The most recent report of those findings comes from a count and survey from January and February 2015.

Drawing from this census and an interview with Thoeni, here’s a breakdown on the basics of homelessness in Monterey County. Because, as Thoeni says, “Everybody has a stake in it.”


You’re considered homeless if you lack a fixed address or if you sleep in places not meant for human habitation — alleys, parks, cars and abandoned buildings, for example.

Being homeless doesn’t necessarily mean you’re on the street. The definition includes people in emergency shelters or transitional housing, which provides temporary living arrangements. These are the sheltered homeless. In 2015, 29 percent of Monterey County’s homeless population was sheltered.


There were 2,308 homeless people counted in 2015. That number is down 11 percent from 2013.

Most, 90 percent, were 25 and older. The population broke down almost evenly along gender lines, 49 percent men to 50 percent women (1 percent reported being transgender).

Nearly half — 47 percent — were white, while the next highest demographic was Latino at 35 percent.


More than half of the county’s unsheltered homeless population lives in Salinas and Monterey — and Salinas has more than twice the number of homeless people than Monterey. The cities with the next highest populations are Seaside and Marina.

The largest concentration of homeless people in Salinas is in the Chinatown neighborhood, a 12-block area not far from downtown roughly bordered by North Main Street, East Rossi Street, Sherwood Drive and Front Street. The encampment there can see around 200 people on a given day.

Between 2013 and 2015, the census found a migration of homeless people from the Monterey Peninsula to Salinas. That could be because of the large concentration of homeless in Salinas, as individuals have a tendency to join encampments.

Elsewhere in Monterey County, there are pockets of homeless people on beaches and freeway entrances, Laguna Grande Park and along the Pajaro River, to name a few places. Thoeni said she has started seeing a new phenomenon of four- or five-tent camps popping up in one area only to disappear and pop up somewhere else.

“People are moving more. What that means in trends and patterns, I don’t know yet,” she said.


Mainly, right here. According to the 2015 census, 78 percent of people who are homeless were living in Monterey County at the time they became homeless. Of that group, over half had lived here for more than 10 years.


Historically, the neighborhood was home to Chinese, Japanese and Filipino communities. According to a report on Chinatown from June 2015, the area’s shift to a homeless haven and open-air drug market can be traced to the 1970s, when a drop-in center opened in downtown Salinas as part of a grant to reduce arrests for public intoxication. That time also marked the beginning of efforts to revitalize Main Street and draw homeless people away from its storefronts.

The center was relocated to Soledad Street in Chinatown in the 1980s, in part because it could be combined with other homeless services already offered in the area. The center closed in the 1990s, to be replaced by Dorothy’s Place Hospitality Center, the self-described “anchor of life” for the homeless people of Chinatown, offering services including a food pantry, health clinic and women’s shelter.

Over time, the homeless population steadily increased and coalesced into encampments.


It’s not just one thing. In fact, it’s often a combination of things.

There are economic causes that start with the loss of a job. It could be mental illness, or drug or alcohol addiction. It could be a gay teenager kicked out of the house. These are just a few examples.

But the main factor seems to be a lack of affordable housing. Seventy-four percent of homeless people said the biggest obstacle to obtaining permanent housing was that they couldn’t afford rent. That’s up from 60 percent in 2013.


Thoeni said the rent target should be for extremely low-income earners, those making at most 30 percent of the area’s median income. Most affordable housing targets are for earners making at least 80 percent of the median income, she said.

The draft housing element of Monterey County’s general plan provides an example for rents in unincorporated areas. The maximum affordable rent for extremely low-income earners ranges from $260 to $331 a month, depending on household size. Affordable rents for those making at least 80 percent of median income range from $964 to $1,417 a month.

The report determined these to be unaffordable and barely affordable, respectively.


The “basic package” of homeless programs, Thoeni said, consists of emergency shelters, transitional housing, rapid rehousing, permanent supportive housing and homeless prevention.

The middle three describe programs that offer rental assistance along with other supportive services, like help accessing benefits or finding a job. Where they differ is in length of stay: People can stay in transitional housing for up to two years, while rapid rehousing is typically limited to about six months. There is no time limit on permanent supportive housing.

The type of housing recommended for each person depends on a number of factors, such as health, family and income.

It also depends on the person’s willingness to accept help.


That’s a common challenge, Thoeni said. You can’t force people to accept services. Two men who died in Monterey in December reportedly refused assistance.

As with the causes of homelessness, the reasons to refuse help are varied. Mental illness, addiction and even stubbornness can play a role, but often it goes deeper than that.

“The further you get into the cycle of homelessness, the further back your reference point goes. So when you’re newly homeless, you can still remember — remember what it was like to have a door with a lock on it or to have a refrigerator or to be able to take a shower,” Thoeni said. “But the longer you live in this condition, the less you can remember that. ...

“For whatever reason, people can lose their ability to envision a better future.”


Monterey County has a lot of transitional housing units thanks in large part to property it was able to snap up after the closure of Fort Ord.

For the other housing programs, that involves coordinating with landlords. And that can be difficult.

“If you’re that landlord and I’ve got a line in front of me of people who want to rent my apartment, and the first 20 people have three times the monthly rent as income, what’s my incentive to take the 21st person who’s on a program?” Thoeni said. “That’s one of our huge challenges. ...

“What landlords don’t seem to realize is that when you do take someone from a program, they have a level of support that an average renter doesn’t have. They have a team working with them — and man, they want to keep them housed.”


Homeless service providers have found that targeted efforts are having an impact.

In the 2013 census, for instance, 221 families were homeless, nearly half of them unsheltered. So service providers focused on helping families. In 2015, there were 117 homeless families — just 2 percent without shelter.

A similar trend was found with veterans, who went from 62 percent unsheltered in 2013 to 42 percent in 2015.

“We do have a strong homeless safety net here — although it needs much more capacity — and we have success stories and we have people moving through this community quietly, who are reclaiming their dreams and finding stability and shifting their mindset,” Thoeni said. “So it happens. It happens every day around here in our community. That’s a really good thing.”

Contact Jeannie Evers at 831-726-4340.

HUD Awards Almost 2 Million Dollars for Monterey/San Benito County Homeless Programs

Monterey/San Benito Counties, California—On March 8, 2016, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) awarded $1,870,864 in initial funding to Monterey and San Benito County homeless programs.  Local programs supported by the grants offer a variety of housing and services including street outreach, transitional, permanent supportive housing and homeless planning activities.

The initial grants were awarded to 7 local agencies to help fund 12 homeless programs. HUD awardees are The Housing Authority of the County of Monterey, Veteran’s Transition Center, Community Homeless Solution, Interim, Inc., Community Human Services, San Benito Health and Human Services and the Coalition of Homeless Services Providers.

HUD announces funding approval in 2 phases. Phase 1 represents the initial $1,870,864 mentioned above. HUD will announce 2nd phase funding in the near future.  Three additional programs from the Salvation Army-Monterey Peninsula, Community Homeless Solutions and the Veterans Transition Center are pending the 2nd round of HUD funding announcements.

Katherine Thoeni, the Executive Officer of the Coalition of Homeless Services Provider says, “Monterey and San Benito Counties join other Continuums of Care in thanking HUD for the continuing support for our programs. The grants awarded are critical investments in local homeless programs and services and can mean the difference between homeless persons and families finding and maintaining stable housing or living on the streets.”  She went on to say, “Continued and expanded support of homeless efforts are critically needed in our community.”