Tommie Faccio in his apartment. He credits Project 25 with turning his life around. Photo by Chris Jennewein
Tommie Faccio, and Army veteran, in his apartment. He credits Project 25 with turning his life around. Photo by Chris Jennewein

An innovative, public-private housing program in San Diego has succeed in keeping 36 chronically homeless individuals off the streets and can now serve a a blueprint for community action.

Project 25 — named for the original goal of helping 25 people — was funded by the the United Way of San Diego County and managed by Father Joe’s Villages over a two-year-period. The San Diego Housing Commission provided affordable apartments throughout the city.

The results were analyzed by Point Loma Nazarene University economists, who released a report Tuesday showing a savings of $3.5 million in costs for prison, ambulance rides, emergency-room visits, hospitalization and arrests.

“This is a case where it truly does cost more to do nothing — both in dollars and lives,” said Shaina Gross, senior vice president of United Way.

City Councilman Todd Gloria said the pilot project is “a launching pad for how we’re going to end homelessness in San Diego.”

Dr. Lynn Reaser, chief economist for Point Loma Nazarene’s Fermanian Business & Economic Institute, said the numbers clearly show that a “housing first” model of providing permanent apartments and supportive services for the chronically homeless can turn their lives around — and save money.

“The results are very encouraging. The issue will be getting support and funding,” Reaser said.

Deacon Jim F. Vargas, president and CEO of Farther Joe’s, said he is committed to expanding the program, with a second group of 25 individuals ready to start.

San Diego has an estimated 7,000 to 8,000 homeless, but Project 25 targets those who are chronically homeless and have other challenges, including mental illness, physical disabilities and substance abuse.

“We started this pilot project in 2011 to determine whether permanent supportive housing works in San Diego — and now we know the answer is a resounding ‘yes,’” said Kevin Crawford, United Way’s president and CEO.

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Chris Jennewein

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.