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

A partnership of nonprofit and government organizations announced Wednesday they will conduct a survey of San Diego’s homeless population to discover how many had once been in the foster care system.

The People’s Alliance for Justice, a civil rights organization based in San Diego, is spearheading the effort along with the San Diego Regional Task Force on the Homeless and San Diego City Councilman Chris Ward.

They say transients who have previously been in the foster care system go uncounted and — in what they claim is a national first — by including those numbers, hope to tackle one of the major causes of homelessness. The partnership plans to spend the remainder of 2020 surveying the city’s homeless population to find the former foster care numbers.

Ward, who has taken the lead on several homelessness and housing ordinances, said supporting the partnership was a no-brainer.

“I am proud to support this proactive effort to count the homeless population and to see how many were formerly in the foster care system,” he said. “This is San Diego leading the nation.”

The Rev. Shane Harris, president of the alliance, said he will reach out to U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson to ask that the foster care statistics become a national standard. He said he brought forward the idea after asking the San Diego Regional Task Force on the Homeless and coming up with no answer.

“Nobody had the data … whether federally, within Housing and Urban Development or locally, within the San Diego Regional Task Force on the Homeless,” he said. “And that was when we knew it was important to launch this effort in San Diego … immediately.”

For Harris, it’s personal. He said he was once in foster care and subsequently found himself homeless after the death of his parents, with only a bag of clothes and an emancipation letter from the foster care system to his name.

Tamera Kohler, head of the regional task force, said the effort would generate data which she hopes can be used to find effective solutions.

Harris said he will travel to Los Angeles next to ask that city to do the same type of survey.

–City News Service