Barriers Abound For City-Funded “Low Barrier” Emergency Shelter Beds

No Boundaries Transitional Housing is now receiving almost $300,000 from the city of Redding to fund 76 emergency beds with case management services over a six-month period. The city says the program is part of initiatives to create low-barrier shelter options for those who are difficult to house. But while barriers to enter the No Boundaries housing program may be low, barriers to maintaining placement on site are significant.
Redding is funding 76 emergency shelter beds with supportive services. According to the contract, beds are located at 2731 Bechelli Lane, also known as the Bridgeway Inn & Suites.

A reception publicized by the city this week showcased the work of a local not-for-profit that’s quietly become the focal point of the city’s emergency-shelter initiatives over the last several months.

No Boundaries Transitional Housing Inc. is run by Director Christine Cage, who presented her organization’s work to a number of representatives from public agencies and nonprofit service partners at the Red Lion Hotel on Wednesday. She spoke glowingly about the Redding Police Department’s Crisis Intervention Response Team (CIRT) and presented certificates of appreciation to the team and other local partners.

No Boundaries Director Christine Cage hugs Redding Police Department Crisis Intervention Response officer Devin Ketel at a November 15 reception at the Red Lion Hotel as No Boundaries operations specialist Felix Roberts looks on. Photo by Annelise Pierce

Her organization has received city funding since September to provide emergency housing and supportive services for unsheltered members of the Redding community. Beds through No Boundaries are described in the contract as being provided at 2731 Bechelli Lane, the location of the Bridgeway Inn & Suites, at a cost to the city of $40 per person per night. This week, the council designated an additional $59,000 to fund 26 more beds through No Boundaries, bringing the cost of the city’s six-month contract with the organization to just under $300,000 for a total of 76 beds.

The council originally authorized Redding’s city manager to enter into an agreement with a not-yet-named emergency housing provider as part of their August 2 meeting, just minutes before voting to change park hours at the Nur Pon Open Space in order to allow the city to “sweep” the recreational area off Cypress Street, which at the time was being used for shelter by an estimated more than 100 unhoused community members.

That “sweep” occurred August 12, despite the city still having a June 2021 shelter crisis declaration in place, which says the lack of available beds within the city creates a threat to the safety of unhoused individuals. The Nur Pon “clean up” is the latest episode in the city’s ongoing struggle to enforce its illegal camping ordinance without providing access to an adequate number of appropriate shelter beds.

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Staff reports provided to the council to support funding for housing through No Boundaries say the partnership is part of the city’s work to “assist the un-homed in our community while also protecting sensitive habitat” by increasing the number of “low-barrier beds with wrap-around services and/or case management” that can provide shelter for individuals that are “difficult to house” through partnerships that emphasize housing-first practices.

The organization’s contract with the city requires it to serve homeless individuals over 18 in Redding, giving preference to individuals brought in by RPD’s CIRT team. It also specifies that the facility will use the NorCal Continuum of Care’s Vulnerability Index to ensure that those who most need housing receive it.

But while city documents describe the beds as low-barrier, the emergency housing contract also includes policies that contradict housing-first practices and pose significant barriers to ongoing emergency housing. Those include requiring No Boundaries to maintain a list of anyone who has been deemed “inappropriate for services,” mentioning that those who are routinely late for curfew or who have failed drug or breathalyzer tests are among those who will be not be allowed to stay at the facility.

Director Cage also described a number of additional barriers to housing during her remarks at the Wednesday reception, saying participants are subjected to a fourteen-day “blackout period,” as well as a thirty-day limited movement restriction after coming to the facility. She also explained that participants must participate in meetings that include life skills training, are required to abstain from substance use, and are required to save 75% of any job earnings towards future housing costs. While Cage repeated several times that no one is turned away from initial entry into the program, she also told the audience that she “runs a very tight program” and “weeds out” many participants “who don’t want to be here” in the first two weeks. 

The restrictive policies that both she and the city describe increase the city’s risk of running afoul of Martin v. Boise, a federal court decision which requires that municipalities have adequate access to shelter in order to enforce illegal camping ordinances. The policies are also not in line with best standards for emergency shelter which say that a housing-first approach without mandatory prerequisites or ongoing mandatory services is the most effective path to reducing homelessness, because it presents the fewest barriers to accessing case management resources.

No Boundaries is required to provide a “support system of specialized case management services to connect clients to resources and help resolve homelessness through individualized comprehensive needs assessments and referrals.” Cage said Wednesday that she is the only case manager for the facility’s seventy-six beds, but also explained in response to follow-up questions by Shasta Scout that the facility currently has a total of eight employees and is in the process of hiring three more.

Source: National Alliance to End Homelessness

The organization does not maintain a website and there is no publicly available information regarding the qualifications of staff employed by the facility, what life-skills curriculums are taught, or any comprehensive list of what policies determine housing access. Asked Wednesday whether she thought a city-funded housing service should provide transparent access to such information, Cage said she would be happy to provide site policies on a case-by-case basis but only in person and with a signed non-disclosure agreement. She explained that the curriculum she uses to teach life skills is evidence-based and “one of the top curriculums in the nation,” but could not remember the curriculum’s title.

City Manager Barry Tippin did not respond to multiple requests for additional clarification and comment on the city’s contract with No Boundaries.

The organization incorporated as nonprofit in 2017 and first opened its doors for housing in 2020 with ten beds, operations specialist Felix Roberts said Wednesday. That’s the same year IRS records show No Boundaries’ non-profit status being revoked due to failure to file Form 990 tax documentation for three or more consecutive years.

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The organization is still listed as having a suspended status with the California Franchise Tax Board but is listed as “Current, Awaiting Report” on the California Department of Justice site. A city staff report authorizing the funding specifies that the emergency shelter beds must be provided through a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization. Tippin said Thursday that he believed that suspended status had been taken care of and would respond with more information soon. 

Decisions to fund the organization were passed in both August and November as part of the council’s consent calendar, a section of the agenda usually used for routine items that require no discussion. Funding was allocated through the city’s Housing Division grant funding, including Permanent Local Housing Allocation funds, Successor Housing Agency funds, and Affordable Housing Loan Funds.

During the reception, Redding Council members Mark Mezzano and Julie Winter both seemed interested in providing additional city funding to the organization, asking during an open question period how No Boundaries might utilize more money. Cage suggested she could use funding to hire additional staff, noting that she’s currently the only case manager and only qualified drug and alcohol counselor for up to seventy-six individuals.

She also emphasized that the real need is long-term affordable housing in the $700/month range. “There is no housing right now,” Cage said, explaining that she worries what will happen to her clients when their six-month stays at the No Boundaries facility end and they end up “right back where they started at.”

“No Boundaries is not the answer,” Cage said. “We are a piece of the puzzle.”

This is a developing story. Do you have information to share about our unhoused community or local housing availability? Contact us at [email protected] Do you have a correction to this story? Submit it here.

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