Two months ago, I shared an editorial about our systematic approach to addressing homelessness and the actions taken by my office in partnership with our regional stakeholders.
Now, I would like to provide a brief update on where some of the items previously mentioned stand to date.
Last December, Supervisor Karen Spiegel convened the District 2 Homeless Solutions Collaborative focused on the Santa Ana River Bottom. Since then, my team and I have become extensively involved with the efforts by Supervisor Spiegel and others to establish four goals: rehouse existing encampment residents, remove and mitigate physical encampments, conduct clean-up and habitat restoration, and establish effective tools to prevent the recurrence of encampments. Previously, I stated that we expect to see results of this regional collaboration as early as fall of 2021. That expectation will soon come to fruition beginning on September 15, 2021 when our City of Riverside homeless outreach team, County of Riverside Behavioral Health, Path of Life Ministries and more will focus efforts to encourage individuals to vacate the river bottom and receive services available by the County of Riverside. This is a proactive measure to vacate a portion of the River that will be under construction soon after.
Following this outreach, the Riverside County Park Rangers will begin clearing debris and vegetation to aide SoCal Gas in providing an accessible site for their upcoming project of undergrounding the vital natural gas line that currently stretches the southern end of the Santa Ana River in our County. This undergrounding will occur from September 2021 to February 2022 and will not only provide added safety by placing the gas pipeline underground but will also remove the unattractive sight of a large, above ground gas line in our River. The work in the River for this specific project will occur approximately between the Acorn Street and Van Buren Boulevard sections of the Santa Ana River.
In relation to mental health, drug rehabilitation and crime, Councilmember Jim Perry has called for an emergency City Council meeting dedicated to the discussion and establishment of a plan of action for addressing the criminal and mental health-related challenges that are intertwined with homelessness. This meeting is September 30, 2021 at 1 p.m. in the City Council Chambers. Some of the areas that we will explore are: needed changes to our municipal code ordinances, review of state laws that restrict local enforcement, testimony from our Riverside Police Department and Homeless Outreach Team on what works—and what doesn’t, exploration of how we can make improvements within the parameters of existing voter-approved measures, route ways to reverse the current bail reforms that release violent offenders from custody, and more. We know that this will be a meeting that many residents will want to attend and provide input.
Know that I walk the same streets as you, patronize the same stores and businesses as you, and I share in the frustration that many have surrounding the amount of time it has taken just to get to this point. But all of these areas of focus are new and are being initiated now—this is both hopeful and frustrating. I am hopeful and proud of the innovative action we are taking to meet this challenge within the constraints of state legislation, voter-approved measures, and rulings by both Circuit and Supreme Court rulings. For more information on this I urge residents to attend on September 30th.