Homeless shelter
The resident of a homeless shelter. Courtesy San Diego Housing Commission

The Board of Supervisors on Tuesday gave the green light for San Diego County to apply for up to $125 million in state funding to help people get off the streets and receive mental health treatment.

The unanimous vote came after the board heard a presentation on the No Place Like Home program, which provides funding for permanent housing not only for homeless people needing mental health services, but those at risk of losing their place to live.

If received over the next four years, the money would cover acquisition, rehabilitation, new construction and preservation of permanent supportive housing for about 1,100 people, according to documents posted to the county board agenda.

The No Place Like Home program could fund 35 to 40 housing developments — or between 500 to 600 units — in the San Diego region, said David Estrella, housing and community development director with the county Health & Human Services Agency.

To help those suffering from mental illness, 15 people would be hired to handle duties that include outpatient care, medications, support services and intensive case management, according to the Health & Human Services Agency.

Alfredo Aguirre, director of county Behavioral Health Services, described housing “as an accelerant of other services and improvements” that also reduces the number of mentally ill people involved in criminal behavior.

Behavioral Health Services staffers would work with property managers to ensure that people are doing well, Aguirre added.

Because it could take between five to six years for all housing options to be available, board Chairwoman Dianne Jacob asked the chief administrative officer and Health & Human Services director to cut through red tape to more quickly help 1,100 people.

CEO Helen Robbins-Meyer said the county needs help from cities to find suitable properties.

Estrella said new construction, acquisition and financing take time, but hopes some projects will be finished sooner.

Praising the No Place Like Home program, Supervisor Greg Cox said 43 percent of homeless people in San Diego County have some form of mental illness and are “down but not out.”

Supervisor Kristin Gaspar said the county must ensure that developers work closely with communities in terms of where housing units will be built.

— City News Service