Redlands granted $4.5M to address homeless encampments

Plus, the future of Zoom meetings decided and the debate over the mayoral selection process tabled

Redlands granted $4.5M to address homeless encampments
Outreach worker approaching encampment in Santa Ana Wash Redlands, CA. Photo: Community Forward Redlands, Jan 23

City Council accepts grant. Plus, the future of Zoom meetings was decided, and the debate over the mayoral selection process was tabled.

REDLANDS, Calif. - The City of Redlands was awarded a $4.5M State grant from the California Interagency Council on Homelessness (Cal ICH) to help people living in roadside encampments along freeways and highways in the area.

On Tuesday, July 25, the City Council accepted the grant from the Encampment Resolution Fund to help unhoused individuals and "create pathways to housing" in Redlands.

In June 2023, Gov. Newsom announced $199M to help 7,300 people living in encampments move off the streets and into safe and stable housing. Redlands is one of 23 projects to receive funding under this program.

According to the staff report, the City will serve about 200 individuals living in encampments along the I-10 and I-210 freeways, Highway 38, and the Santa Ana River basin.

How will the money be used?

The grant will fund services such as street outreach, housing navigation, rapid rehousing, permanent housing, and hotel vouchers.

The City also plans to hire two full-time outreach workers and one full-time administrative assistant to support the City's Homeless Solutions Division.

Most of the grant funds are expected to be distributed to local non-profit service providers. A list of subcontractors will be presented to the City Council for approval at a future meeting.

Here's a look at the proposed use of funds for the next three years:

Break down of grant funds for the next three years. Source: City Council meeting staff report 07/25/23

In Redlands, the number of unhoused individuals increased by 76% during the annual point-in-time count in January 2023. You can read more about the current homeless population here.

Proposal to revisit mayoral selection process tabled

Once again, the Redlands City Council deliberated over the rotational process for selecting the mayor. Just six months after approving a new method, Mayor Eddie Tejeda proposed repealing that decision at the July 25 meeting.

After two hours of public comment and tense moments on the dais, the Council voted to table the discussion.

In January, the Council adopted a rotational process for selecting the mayor based on seniority. The new method will take effect after the November 2024 elections. At that time, Councilmember Denise Davis is expected to take on the role of Mayor for two years, followed by Councilmember Jenna Guzman-Lowery.

Before public comment began, Davis and Guzman-Lowery questioned Tejeda about why the item was back on the agenda before it could be implemented.

Tejeda said it was "self-explanatory."

Davis and Guzman Lowery pushed Tejeda further to reveal his rationale.

"I think after the experience that I've had thus far," Tejeda responded, "I would like us to have the opportunity to revisit. Is that better?"

Davis said the public deserves an explanation.

"It's irresponsible to put something on (the agenda) without explaining the rationale," Davis replied, noting the Council voted on it earlier this year and the measure had not been given a chance.

Tejeda pushed back, saying it was his prerogative to put any item on the agenda.

The public comments that followed largely supported keeping the new process for selecting the mayor by rotation. Many who spoke in person and online questioned why the Mayor did not provide a reason for going back on the selection process.

Many called the lack of transparency reckless and a waste of time.

"Without being provided any clear and transparent reason to dissolve a measure that has not been implemented is irresponsible while wasting valuable time and resources on more important issues," said Patricia Gomez.

Others said the lack of data to support the change was concerning. "There is no data prompting such a flip-flop, in fact, it positions this Council to be a deeply unserious governing body," said Tracy Wise.

Following public comments, Councilmembers continued discussing the selection process and why it was on the agenda until Mayor Pro Tem Paul Barich suggested the item be tabled.

"I don't know why we're discussing it now. We have an election in 18 months... I would like to propose we table this," said Barich.

The Council voted 4-1 to postpone the discussion to a future meeting, with Tejeda dissenting.

The future of Zoom

Zoom will remain a channel for residents to engage with City Hall. On Tuesday, the City Council approved the continued use of Zoom for City Council and Planning Commission meetings.

Councilmembers heard two dozen public comments, both in person and online, in support of keeping Zoom available for the community to comment remotely during public meetings. Many shared how they rely on Zoom when work, travel, or family obligations keep them from being physically present in Council chambers. Most advocated for remote access because it increases equity and inclusion in local decision-making.

Mayor Eddie Tejeda said the item was put on the agenda for discussion after the July 18 meeting had to be adjourned because of technical difficulties with the City's Zoom connection.

(Read Community Forward Redlands preview of the agenda item here)

Following the outpouring of public support, the City Council voted unanimously to keep Zoom access available.

The City Council takes a recess in August. The next City Council meeting will be held on Tuesday, September 5, 2023.

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