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Eureka’s Multiple Assistance Center Maximizes Support for Homeless

The concept of a multiple assistance center (MAC) aims to break the cycle of homelessness by successfully transitioning program participants toward stable employment and permanent housing. The City of Eureka’s MAC project was first introduced in 1996 as a new approach to solving issues of homelessness. By integrating on-site specialized care and support services with on-site transitional housing and multiple-step programs, the MAC is designed to help families and individuals achieve self-sufficiency.

Historically, homeless services were dispersed at various locations throughout Eureka, resulting in limited access and availability for those with mental and physical disabilities. Local service providers estimate that the unmet demand for local emergency shelters, affordable housing and homeless-related services affects 30 percent of all homeless people. And local service providers expect the need for shelters and services to continue at current levels, if not worsen as the population increases.

Without an innovative solution to these problems, the likely trend would be a gradual worsening of homelessness in Eureka. But previous site selection processes for homeless shelters (with no program services) in Eureka had been divisive, contentious and futile. To meet this challenge, the city sought funding, partnerships and public support to select and acquire property for the construction of a new and innovative facility that would combine affordable transitional housing and multiple homeless services in one location.

MAC Becomes Primary Strategy

Confident that the MAC would meet a critical need in Eureka and ultimately provide an improved, more efficient and cost-effective delivery of homeless services, the city adopted the project as its primary homeless and low-income housing strategy. Since 1996, the project has become central to the city’s efforts to assist homeless populations in the community.

The City of Eureka assumed a leadership role in building the necessary public and private partnerships and facilitating coordination of this project between a broad coalition of supporters. These included local nonprofits, public agencies, health care organizations, religious communities, housing advocates and many concerned citizens devoted to improving the lives of homeless families and individuals in the Eureka community.

Along with these coalition partners, the city successfully moved the project forward through lengthy and often contentious site selection, acquisition, relocation, permitting, environmental, design, construction, fund-raising and political processes. All objectives were met when the MAC opened in March 2005.

Many Services in One Facility

The MAC now provides a more efficient distribution of existing homeless services in Eureka. By combining transitional housing with on-site services and networking with existing community ser-vices and programs, the MAC endeavors to make the best use of financial resources, avoids duplication of services, and uses a creative problem-solving approach. Programs and services now offered at the MAC include childcare, medical/mental health care, literacy building, parenting skills development, money management, anger management, nutritional skills, conflict resolution, landlord/tenant protocols, alcohol/drug counseling, job training, transportation and others.

Through case management at the MAC, the homeless in Eureka can now identify their needs, learn how to overcome obstacles, obtain employment and function independently within the community. A well-developed program with long-term solutions to homelessness, the MAC also facilitates overall health improvements to the homeless population.

The MAC was created to fill a major gap in Eureka’s homeless services continuum of care: a 24-hour staffed transitional housing facility combining shelter with in-depth case management, on-site programs and direct services in one facility.

A Community Concern

From the beginning, the MAC has been a community effort. The City of Eureka, County of Humboldt, public agencies, local nonprofits, and the education and faith-based communities all worked together for nine years to get the MAC permitted, funded, sited and built. Now that it is operational, many agencies and services have committed to providing staff at the MAC, such as County Mental Health, Social Services and Public Health, Child Care Council, Private Industry Council, Veterans Services, Employment Training and Development and others.

Furthermore, the total cost of the project was approximately $5.4 million, and many partnerships were needed to raise the funds necessary to complete it. Costs included acquisition ($1.1 million), re-location ($175,000), design ($265,000) and rehabilitation ($3.85 million). The first year operational costs were budgeted at $600,000. Those contributing significant funds included:

  • Sisters of St. Joseph’s of Orange ($250,000);
  • California Community Development Block Grant Program ($1.8 million);
  • State of California HOME Investment Partnerships Program ($1 million loan);
  • State of California Emergency Housing and Assistance Program ($500,000);
  • County of Humboldt ($600,000); and
  • Eureka Redevelopment Agency ($1.9 million).

In addition, hundreds of hours of community service have been volunteered by citizens and supporters.

Like many community homeless programs, the MAC program initially met with resistance from the community, business owners and elected officials, particularly with regard to site selection. An extensive and inclusive public participation process over several years served as a catalyst for increased support and assistance for the local homeless population as well as more understanding of the impact these problems have on the community at large. As a result, the City of Eureka now has an energized community focusing on and supporting the MAC in an effort to solve the problem of homelessness within the area.

Contact: Gary M. Bird, special projects manager, Office of the City Manager, City of Eureka; phone: (707) 441-4165; e-mail: gbird@ci.eureka.ca.gov.