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San Bernardino Declares a State of Emergency Over Homelessness Crisis

The city San Bernardino declared homelessness a state of emergency at Wednesday’s council meeting.

The state of emergency designation will help the city streamline zoning regulations, expand interim, temporary and permanent housing options and allow permanent or temporary structures for emergency housing.

Public commenting was cut from three minutes to 90 seconds due to the volume of speakers. Several commenters expressed their dismay at the city for limiting their comments, but most people showed out in support of the declaration.

Councilmember Ben Reynoso originally brought forth the idea of declaring homelessness a state of emergency in November after public commenter Treasure Ortiz suggested it.

Ortiz was also present at Wednesday’s meeting. She expressed gratitude to Reynoso, but also expressed her frustration at the lack of a plan.

“There is no plan here,” said Ortiz. “Where is the dedicated funding?”

Still, the city council voted unanimously to support the resolution, which was effective immediately. The state of emergency will last one year from Feb. 1, 2023.

“How we’re going to address it is multifaceted. It will take a lot of people, a lot of time, a lot of money, groundwork and volunteers. All of us coming together to make sure we can do whatever possible to make sure we don’t continue to add to the homelessness on our own will,” said Councilmember Kimberly Calvin.

The city plans to create a Homelessness Task Force to assist those experiencing homelessness.

Late last year, the city council also approved $20 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds to implement a Homelessness Action Plan and to build a navigation center that will provide support services to those who are homeless.

City staff also recommended studying the possibility of calling a separate shelter crisis.