LIVERMORE -- Livermore will host the Tri-Valley's first-of-its-kind Summit on Homelessness on April 30, bringing together local and federal officials, community agencies and faith-based organizations to explore regional solutions to the area's homeless problem.

"It's going to be up to everyone," said Livermore Mayor John Marchand, who organized the summit. "We can't just dump it on one city; it's got to be a collaborative effort. ... What we have done in the last 10 years isn't working. This is about providing people a way out of homelessness."

There are no permanent shelters for single men in the Tri-Valley and only one 16-bed emergency shelter for women, families and single men with children.

In March, Livermore began enforcing a ban on urban camping, punishable by fines or even jail time for repeated offenses. Some advocates have criticized the move as a way to criminalize the area's homeless population.

Ann King, executive director of Tri-Valley Haven, called the crackdown "a step in the wrong direction." Her nonprofit, which receives $10,000 annually from the city to operate the 16-bed emergency homeless shelter, said the facility has a long waiting list and lacks funding for 24-hour staffing.

"At the federal level, the safety net is being cut badly," King said. "It seems sometimes they're expecting churches and nonprofits to pick up the slack. ... There's only so much you can do with volunteers."


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The summit, taking place at the Robert Livermore Community Center, will bring together representatives from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development; homeless and low-income housing agencies; Alameda County Behavioral Health Care Services; Livermore police; the Department of Veterans Affairs; and the local faith-based community for panel discussions and presentations.

According to Livermore human services manager Jean Prasher, the city distributes $200,000 in grants annually to homeless services like the Tri-Valley Haven shelter, and to programs helping people maintain their homes.

"The purpose of the summit is how to prevent and reduce homelessness," Prasher said. "We're looking at proven strategies that work."

King envisions a permanent shelter for single men in the Tri-Valley, as well as a multiuse day center where homeless families could feel welcome. It would take a combination of private donations, political will and the support of cities to come to fruition, she said.

"It's a sign of hope," King said of the upcoming summit. "We're looking forward to hearing the community speak and we're committed to finding solutions."

Bob McKenzie is co-founder of the Livermore Homeless Refuge, a shelter for single men open only during rainy or cold nights from November until April 30. The refuge is a partnership of four local churches.

"We're out here trying to do the best we can," McKenzie said of the faith-based efforts. "We'd like to see more folks, the county, state and federal, step up to the problem."

McKenzie, who wants to see storage lockers for the homeless and more affordable housing, added he isn't optimistic about the summit's potential impact.

"We have a feeling this is a political maneuver," said McKenzie. "Our concern is day to day and week to week; they're talking about years from now."

Marchand, who supports using the Livermore VA hospital as transitional housing for homeless veterans, said the summit goes beyond politics.

"This has never been done in the Tri-Valley before," Marchand said. "People complain about the (homeless) problem a lot, but I'm the first mayor to convene a meeting. That's not politics; that's commitment."

Contact Jeremy Thomas at 925-847-2184. Follow him at Twitter.com/jet_bang.

IF YOU GO
The Summit on Homelessness, convened by Livermore Mayor John Marchand, will be held from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the Cresta Blanca Ballroom at the Robert Livermore Community Center, 4444 East Ave. The event will consist of a panel of local and federal officials, housing agencies, police, the Department of Veterans Affairs and the local faith-based community, and breakout groups led by community leaders on how to prevent and reduce homelessness. For details, go to www.cityoflivermore.net.