City Council approves new homeless outreach program

SAN DIEGO — The San Diego City Council spent nearly seven hours Monday discussing ideas and listening to reports and public comments during a special meeting focused on homelessness in the area.

Top-discussed topics included more funding, more housing, and more outreach programs to deal with the crisis.

According to the San Diego Regional Task Force on Homelessness, the 2022 point-in-time count found that at least 8,427 people in San Diego County were homeless. The task force said this was a 10% increase since 2020.

According to the city’s latest update in May, the homeless population is over 4,800 within the city limits, with 2,307 housed and 2,494 unhoused.

The city boasts that since the summer of 2021, when Mayor Todd Gloria established the Department of Homelessness Strategies and Solutions, the city has increased shelter capacity by 28%, worked to create more of permanent housing and to widen the reach of the street.

Jeff Olivet of the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness, which provided a federal update to the city council, said he witnessed a humanitarian crisis while visiting San Diego a few weeks ago. He said homelessness was on the rise before the pandemic.

“Homelessness is a crisis, it’s a matter of life and death,” he said.

Olivet added that leaders coming together across party lines work, and that setting goals and ensuring people who have experienced homelessness have a seat at the table will be instrumental in tackling this crisis. . He said: “Criminalizing people for being homeless is not the solution”.

Olivet shared a report on federal funding with The American Rescue Plan Act, which he said has invested billions of dollars to address homelessness across the country. San Diego is one of more than 100 cities that are part of the “House America” ​​initiative, which aims to add new affordable housing units and rehouse homeless households – that the city is on the well on its way to reaching its goal by the end of the year by relocating more than 2,000 households.

The federal update discussed upcoming opportunities for the city to apply for more federal funding. President Joe Biden has proposed increased funding to address homelessness in the fiscal year 2023 budget. The budget includes a 10% increase to $8.7 billion to target homelessness relief, a an 11% increase in HUD Homelessness Assistance Grants, an 85% increase in VA Support Services for Veteran Families, and an increase in funding for Transitional Housing Assistance Grants from the DOJ to victims. of sexual assault.

The council voted to pass an agreement between the San Diego Housing Commission and People Assisting the Homeless to partner and operate the city’s multidisciplinary outreach program for $632,013 for a nine-year term. months starting October 1, 2022. There are renewal options based on city funding. .

Funding includes $7,263 for a one-time start-up expense. The money is expected to come from the “City of San Diego’s general fund and the Regional Homelessness Task Force’s Housing, Assistance and Homelessness Prevention Program funds,” according to the city.

PATH will operate the program and is expected to “collaborate and contract with Father Joe’s Villages (FJV) for the healthcare component. The program uses an integrated multidisciplinary team that will include a nurse practitioner, four clinical outreach specialists, a physician assistant/outreach worker, two peer support specialists, and a part-time addiction counselor. This will include access to FJV’s Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner and Clinical Psychologist, among other healthcare professionals. The goal is that this program will fill “existing gaps in the system by deploying a multi-disciplinary outreach team to work directly with those hardest to serve.”

The board was due to vote on whether to accept the first round of a state grant, but after 6 p.m. the agenda item was moved to a vote on Tuesday. The city’s HSSD applied in April and was granted the full requested amount of $441,151.13 on June 27, 2022.

The regional homelessness task force of the Continuum of Care Advisory Council, the San Diegan Black Homelessness Ad Hoc Committee, provided an update on its work and made six recommendations to help address end the homelessness crisis, including:

1. Develop a data dashboard to track progress toward equity goals.

2. Inclusive sourcing and seats of creatine at the table to include people with lived experiences in decision-making.

3. Develop training and education.

4. Mentoring of Black-led organizations, including expanding outreach strategies

5. Center the voices of Black people with lived experience and offer compensation for sharing their experience.

6. Transform the crisis response system.

The presentation showed reports on racial disparities, which stated that “mainstream services are discriminatory and not designed effectively for black people to access.” Their report also showed that blacks make up 5% of San Diego’s population, but they are six times more likely than non-blacks to be homeless and five times more likely to be homeless.

Ryan H. Bowman