City Moving Forward with Pilot Employment Program for Homeless

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Homeless tents on set up on 16th Street in downtown San Diego. Photo by Chris Stone

The San Diego City Council‘s Select Committee on Homelessness Monday advised staff to move forward with a pilot program intended to increase employment for people using the city’s rapid-rehousing programs, which provide temporary assistance to those who are newly homeless or facing chronic homelessness.

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Temporary housing services provides users a foothold toward permanent employment and housing, but San Diego program outcomes don’t measure up to national averages, according to consultant Kris Kuntz. Roughly 50 percent of households are able to find steady employment and regularly pay rent at the conclusion of rapid re-housing services, compared to a goal of 70 percent.

The pilot, initially approved in April, is intended to improve rapid- rehousing outcomes by making existing housing and job services easier for individuals to use simultaneously. Currently, approximately 25 percent of people enter and exit rapid-rehousing with jobs, City Councilman Chris Ward said.

“So people aren’t getting jobs within that subpopulation, and I think that’s the missing link here that this pilot program is seeking to fulfill,” he said. “To the extent we can do that and have more people getting that gainful employment, having that steady income stream is going to help them be successful at the end of their temporary stay through the rapid-rehousing program and not fall right back into homelessness.”

Pilot participants will be screened to determine appropriate employment services. Then, depending on urgency of needed services, agencies — including the San Diego Workforce Partnership, San Diego Regional Task Force on the Homeless and the San Diego Housing Commission — will place individuals using existing relationships with employers. Staff will also work with city departments to fill chronically vacant positions, including groundskeeper, laborer and library aid roles.

Staff believe the program can assist 200 households its first year and 100 its second. A household is defined as an individual or family.

Total pilot costs are projected to be $3.5 million and $1.7 million for years one and two, respectively. The majority of pilot funding has already been budgeted in the form of existing rapid-rehousing appropriations and grants.

That leaves funding gaps of $322,728 for each year. The Lucky Duck Foundation has committed to filling the year-one gap, Kuntz said.

New year-one expenditures will include $72,500 to hire a pilot coordinator and $50,229 for an additional job center coordinator. The positions will improve connectivity between existing resources while allow housing and employment officials to focus on their respective specialties, Kuntz said.

“We’re already doing these things, spending money on it,” he said. “How do we fill in some of those gaps to improve coordination and targeted programming? That’s what we’re funding — the gap costs are to connect these systems.”

Staff will measure the pilot program’s success by tracking the amount of households able to pay stable rent at the conclusion of rapid-rehousing programs, as well as the amount of households that are stable one to two years after exiting rapid-rehousing.

Tamera Kohler, Regional Task Force on the Homeless chief operations officer, said her staff will follow program outcomes to determine appropriate strategies at a countywide level.

“I hope that over time as we measure those we’re able to see the best referrals, intervention and coordination, and then teach and train those best practices to strengthen us overall regionally,” she said.

–City News Service

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