County leaders approve 24/7 homeless shelter

By BEVERLY BARELA
January 31, 2019

The Merced County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a contract this week with the Community Action Agency so that the D Street homeless shelter in South Merced could be opened 24/7 as part of a one-year pilot Navigational Center program.
The D Street shelter currently operates nightly with a 50-bed capacity. The supervisors amended the proposed initial contract to expand the beds to 60 at an additional cost of $48,000.
At a meeting Tuesday, the supervisors discussed the current environment for the homeless, and the need to make a change in hopes of accomplishing the real solution for homelessness, which they say is housing.
Homelessness is a very complex issue. By the time people become homeless, they face a lot of challenges and need a lot of supportive services.
Currently, homeless people are getting their basic needs met for a shower, a bed and a meal at the shelter. They have the option to be housed at night at the shelter, but at 7 a.m., they become homeless again until that night.
The transition from homeless is not occurring presently because a lot of the people who are homeless do not like rules at all.
The new concept is to think of the shelter as a “navigation center” because it is hoped that with 24/7 services available, it will be possible to encourage the next step, which is the transition from homelessness to being housed.
“What we’re trying to do is lower barriers to entry, and house some people who are difficult to house,” said John Ceccoli, a management analyst for the county. “We’re trying to navigate them out of the homeless population.”
Ceccoli explained, “Instead of the shelter being run on a first come, first served basis, with the new concept, the homeless will get a needs assessment. They will have a Community Action Agency case manager at the D Street shelter to accomplish their individualized housing plan.”
He continued, “The homeless individual, the referring agency and the Community Action Agency case manager will work together on the housing plan, which may involve services through HSA, Behavioral Health, Turning Point, Veterans Services or it could be about reconnecting with family members.”
The pilot program will be monitored by the Homeless Management Information System.
Supervisor Lloyd Pareira was enthusiastic about the pilot program.
“It will get them more prepared to be in a place like the city’s project,” he said. “The County of Merced is short on housing, but one step that is currently ongoing for the purpose of creating new housing is the City of Merced has a developer, and it’s working on affordable housing and permanent supportive housing project for anyone who qualifies.”

Cal Fire’s Rahn promoted
During the board meeting, Mike van Loben Sels, acting deputy chief of Cal Fire’s Madera/Mariposa/Merced Unit, announced that Jeremy Rahn has been promoted to division chief of the Merced Division of that unit, replacing Chief Lawson, who retired.
In 1991, Rahn began his career as a paid call firefighter with the Merced County Fire Department and was hired by the Atwater City Fire Department as a fire apparatus engineer at the Castle Fire Station in 1995.
In 2000, he became fire captain at Station 1 (now 41).
He was promoted to battalion chief in 2005.
When the City of Atwater contracted with Cal Fire for fire protection services in 2008, Rahn began his career with Cal Fire, coming across as a Fire Captain at Atwater Station 61.
In 2012, Rahn transferred to Merced OES as a fire captain and in 2014, he was promoted to battalion chief in OES. In 2017, Jeremy transferred to the Los Banos Battalion where he is currently assigned.
During his career, Rahn has assisted in acquiring grants benefiting Merced County. He is a member of Cal Fire Incident Management Team 2 as a public information officer.
Rahn played a key leadership role in the 2017 Winter storms when there were multiple EOS activations.
After the announcement of his promotion, Rahn said he was excited to fill in as Merced County division chief.


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