Officials Discuss Challenges, Successes of Fighting San Diego Homelessness

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Shopping carts filled with belongings of homeless people line a street in downtown San Diego. Photo by Chris Stone

The San Diego City Council heard seven presentations Tuesday regarding recent efforts to address homelessness as well as the lack of transitional and affordable housing.

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Representatives from several regional offices discussed specific challenges and successes fighting homelessness in San Diego last year and the beginning of 2018. Several speakers also addressed how the city may support long-term strategies to eradicate homelessness.

“We have to address homelessness in a way that works for us,” council President Myrtle Cole said.

Entities that presented to the council included the Regional Task Force on the Homeless, San Diego County, Mayor Kevin Faulconer’s office, the San Diego Housing Commission, San Diego State University’s Institute for Public Health and the council’s Select Committee on Homelessness.

Deanna Villanueva with the housing commission delivered a nine-month progress report on the city’s Housing First plan, which seeks to place homeless individuals in housing as quickly as possible while providing services when needed. Villanueva said the lack of temporary affordable housing serves as a barrier to progress, though several programs exceeded goals.

Since July 1, the commission has helped 719 households at risk of homelessness remain permanently housed, more than double the annual prevention goal of 350 households.

The Landlord Engagement and Assistance Program, which seeks landlords to offer affordable housing to homeless individuals, has resulted in 855 placements, compared to an annual goal of 1,000.

The Permanent Supportive Housing program, which facilitates the creation of permanent, voucher-eligible rental units, has surpassed an annual 200-unit goal with 230 units pending.

An effort to provide homeless individuals with permanent housing through light case management and short-term rental assistance, however, fell well short of an annual goal of 200 with only 80 placements.

SDSU associate professor Sue Lindsay delivered a report on the homeless coordinated entry system, which assesses individuals then matches them with permanent affordable housing providers. Data was gathered on more than 15,000 cases between January 2014 and September 2017.

Ultimately, the study indicated only 22 percent of individuals assessed as eligible for rapid rehousing or permanent housing placement services became “match-ready,” meaning they were actually able to be matched a permanent housing provider.

Lindsay said despite being eligible, many individuals have trouble collecting application paperwork and other materials.

“That implies to me that somebody needs to help them. This is a difficult task to get all this paperwork and somebody needs to help them,” she said.

Lindsay recommended hiring additional staff members to assist homeless individuals to obtain housing.

–City News Service

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