The City of Redlands has declared a shelter crisis, and various agencies are figuring out what they can do to continue supporting the homeless. KVCR's Katie Trojano has more in this feature report.
Meet Justin Burzachiello, a 17-year old senior at Redlands High School. Through collaboration with ESRI, a local high-tech mapping company, Justin developed an app called the Helping Humans application. This app helps assist those struggling with homelessness by compiling a list of hotlines, county services, employment assistance, service providers and provisions.
“My main goal with this was just to maybe like show that there's actually stuff that can be done bedsides just watching and handing out food provisions to people you can kind of, instead of just like putting a Band-Aid over the issue you can hopefully get rid of the issue in the first place if that's possible”
According to last January’s Point in Time, the annual count of homeless people, Redlands was listed with San Bernardino County’s 2nd highest homelessness rate in 2017. There are currently 0 housing shelters in Redlands.
Justin has relied on services at Youth Hope Foundation, a drop-in center for homeless, run-away and at-risk youth in Redlands. Youth Hope is one of the many service organizations in Redlands that is trying to meet the needs of a growing homeless population.
Redlands City Councilwoman Toni Momberger says the city Council decided to declare a shelter crisis in order to apply for a portion of the county’s $9.4 million in Emergency Homeless Aid Program.
“The fiscal impact is great, and then of course there's the element that it's troublesome to know as we're cozy in our beds at night, it's a humanitarian issue, and it's troublesome to know that they're are people through a variety of circumstances who are living outside.”
And Momberger adds the cost of supporting Redlands’ homeless community is at times overwhelming.
At the Youth Hope Foundation, young people ages 14-24 (give or take a few years) are provided with a safe space to hang out and do homework, get food and pick out clothes, receive mentoring and a gain access to a variety of other resources.
The Director of Youth Hope, Heidi Mayer, says her goal is to welcome struggling young people, wherever they’re at, and help them move forward in life. While each homeless, at-risk and runaway youth’s situation is unique and important, Mayer’s biggest issue is figuring out how to help the portion of homeless and at-risk youth that struggle with mental illness.
“To me, that's where our priorities need to be, is to be able to help the people that can't help themselves. I can work with those kids and make that happen, but what about the others. I feel, that's where we are really messing up, and there's absolutely nothing we can do except for say, ‘Be safe,’ and sometimes she doesn't even know what that means.”
Youth Hope has taken some steps to provide services that address mental health. Mayer provides sessions where kids can talk with each other and staff in a group. Also, counselors come to the drop-in center and sit with kids in their own environments where they feel the most comfortable, instead of having the kids go into a traditional office setting for sessions.
Mayer’s other emphasis of importance is spreading awareness.
“I think again just awareness. If you see someone don't give money, if they want a ham sandwich or they want money for food, you know carry granola bars or buy them a hamburger or sit down and visit with them as they're eating their hamburger that you purchased, get to know people.”
Redlands City Councilwoman Toni Momberger is optimistic about organizations like the Youth Hope Foundation that already exist in Redlands. But with the declaration of the shelter crisis, there is certainly room for the improvement that will hopefully come from additional state funding.
Momberger says that a lot of the time, the people that she sees devoting time and energy to helping those most in need are people that were once homeless or at-risk themselves.
“A lot of the people that I've met over the past year in attending symposium workshops who work for homeless or people on the edge of homelessness are previously homeless people. It's really interesting and touching to see how they turn around when they get to a self-sufficient state and pull others up.”
While Burzachiello is waiting for his application to officially launch, he’s finishing up applying to colleges. For now, he’s excited about continuing to study physics and figure out what he wants to do with the rest of his life.