County Hires Homelessness Czar

Julie Arena will lead Benton County’s newest iteration of an advisory panel focused on local homelessness – currently living in Sacramento, she will start work on October 14.

Arena, 37, has worked as a policy specialist for the California Department of Public Health since 2016, and before that as a program analyst for the California Department of Health Care Services. She has a law degree from UC Davis, and bachelors in Psychology and Sociology from UCLA.

Of the two finalist vying for the position, Arena focused on identifying federal grant dollars to finance rehabilitation facilities, substance abuse programs and transitional housing. Local experts have advocated for a comprehensive intake center, and others for co-locating services – Arena supports each of these proposals. In a public meeting vetting the two finalists for the position, Arena said she would see her role as setting a tone, and that transparency would be important, given any plans made would affect everyone in the community.

What Arena Will Lead

Arena will be the Program Coordinator for the Housing Opportunity Planning Equity program, or HOPE, which is a new inter-governmental structure between the county and the city. The new program will be led by a board that includes County Commissioner Xan Augerot, along with City Councilors and other stakeholders.

The new program will replace the Housing Opportunities Action Collaborative, or HOAC that disbanded earlier this year amid controversy over its general direction. HOAC itself was an attempt to replace the Homeless Oversight Commission.

Arena will report to Health Department Director Dawn Emerick..

By Andy Thompson