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San Bernardino County to gauge racial, ethnic disparities in homeless services

One homeless advocate suggested the money to conduct the evaluation could better be spent ‘getting people into places and getting support services’

San Bernardino County Sheriff’s deputy Brandon Davault collects information from homeless individuals during the San Bernardino County’s annual Point-In-Time-Count, an annual tally of the region’s homeless population, near Date Street and Del Rosa Avenue in San Bernardino on Thursday, Jan. 23, 2020. (Photo by Watchara Phomicinda, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)
San Bernardino County Sheriff’s deputy Brandon Davault collects information from homeless individuals during the San Bernardino County’s annual Point-In-Time-Count, an annual tally of the region’s homeless population, near Date Street and Del Rosa Avenue in San Bernardino on Thursday, Jan. 23, 2020. (Photo by Watchara Phomicinda, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)
Joe Nelson portrait by Eric Reed. 2023. (Eric Reed/For ɫ̳/SCNG)
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A San Bernardino County policy-making agency on homelessness is seeking bids for a comprehensive evaluation of racial, ethnic and gender disproportionality, as well as cultural biases, in the delivery of housing and services to the county’s unhoused population.

A webinar open to the public, in which prospective vendors will pitch their proposals to the San Bernardino County Interagency Council on Homelessness, will be held at 9 a.m. Tuesday, Jan. 23, and can be accessed at

The evaluation is made possible from a small portion, about $147,000, of a $3.9 million grant from the state’s Homeless Housing, Assistance and Prevention Grant Program.

The San Bernardino County Interagency Council on Homelessness is a policy-making body of representatives from across the county who work with the Office of Homeless Services and other agencies to address homelessness.

The Good Nite Inn in Redlands, seen here in 2021, will be converted into a 98-room homeless shelter with the help of $30 million in state Homekey funds announced on Tuesday, March 15, 2022. (File photo by Jennifer Iyer, Redlands Daily Facts/SCNG)
The former Good Nite Inn in Redlands, seen here in 2021, was converted to homeless housing with funding from the state Homekey program. The property is now threatened with foreclosure because the developer, Shangri-La Industries, has defaulted on its loan, according to the state. (File photo by Jennifer Iyer, Redlands Daily Facts/SCNG)

The state recognizes that people of color are overrepresented among those experiencing homelessness, and therefore has mandates in place to ensure equity among those seeking housing and essential services, according to the San Bernardino County Office of Homeless Services.

Statistics from the state show Blacks comprised 26.8% of those who accessed homeless services in 2021, but comprised only 5.5% of the general population. Whites comprised 54.7% of those who tapped homeless services and represented 52.1% of the general population.

American Indians, Alaskan natives and other Indigenous peoples comprised 2.9% of those who accessed homeless services in 2021, but represented 0.9% of the state’s general population, according to the BCSHA data.

The county logged 4,195 sheltered and unsheltered homeless persons in 2023, an increase of more than 25% over 2022, according to its survey.

More than 37% of homeless adults and more than 36% of unaccompanied youth under the age of 18 were Latino, while 20% of adults and 18.2% of youth were Black. Additionally, 3.6% of homeless adults were American Indian, while nearly 50% of homeless adults and 36.4% of youth were White, according to the report.

County spokesperson David Wert said the state has requested the evaluations from all counties, suggesting the request is routine rather than and not something that targets San Bernardino County for any inequities in programs that provide housing and other services to homeless individuals.

He said the intent of the bidding process for the evaluation is to ensure the county is competitive and to “cast a wide net of network providers to ensure we are getting the best out there to serve the community in these types of activities.”

And while the state is requesting the evaluations be done, they are not mandatory, said Russ Heimerich, a spokesperson for the Business, Consumer Services and Housing Agency.

Wert said a timeline for the evaluation’s completion will be worked out with a vendor once one is selected.

The state ramped up its services to the homeless during the coronavirus pandemic in 2020, launching its Homekey and Roomkey programs to provide both permanent and temporary housing solutions for the homeless.

On Thursday, Jan. 18, Gov. Gavin aimed at  converting  hotels and other buildings into permanent housing for the homeless. He said only a few million dollars remain of $3.5 billion after the state backed more than 15,000 housing unit conversions, of which 9,000 are complete.

Also on Thursday, the city of San Bernardino announced it has been awarded nearly $35 million in Homekey funding to provide interim housing for chronically homeless men. It is the largest grant awarded in the current round of Homekey funding and is believed to be the largest competitive grant the city has ever received, according to a news release.

The announcements came a week after California housing authorities sued a Los Angeles developer, Shangri-La Industries, for defaulting on millions of dollars of loans under the Homekey program tied to seven motel conversion projects in San Bernardino, Redlands, Thousand Oaks and the Bay Area.

Rick Ferguson, a homeless advocate in Redlands who helps operate a homeless shelter for men and women at Holy Name of Jesus Catholic Church on Columbia Street, said he did not see a need for the disparity evaluation and feels the money could be better spent elsewhere.

“I don’t personally see any disparity going on at any of the shelters, and we’ve been working at shelters or managing shelters for 10 years. We have people of all ages, mixed genders, different races,” Ferguson said during an interview.

What Ferguson said he did see was an extreme need for affordable housing and shelter for the homeless.

“I would rather see money spent on that — getting people into places and getting support services versus just more staff being hired or contractors to categorize what the issue is out there versus dealing with some of it,” Ferguson said. “I got a small shelter. I’ve got 14 people there, capacity is 12. I’m turning away people every day on the phone. I’m turning away people at the door, just giving them some food and a blanket to go back on the street. There’s definitely an extreme need for additional affordable, safe housing.”

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