A homeless person in Coronado. Photo by Chris Stone

A collaboration between the San Diego Housing Commission and San Diego City College will provide specialized education, training and job placement assistance to develop the workforce needed for programs and services that help San Diegans experiencing homelessness, it was announced Thursday.

The first “Homelessness Program for Engaged Educational Resources” course started this week through the college. Forty students enrolled in the first PEER course.

“Hiring and retaining individuals with the qualifications and the commitment to serve this population is essential to successfully addressing homelessness,” SDHC President and CEO Richard Gentry said. “This pilot program is an innovative step forward to help meet this need in the city of San Diego.”

The housing commission identified the need for additional qualified applicants for positions in the area of homelessness programs and services. The strategies in San Diego’s Community Action Plan on Homelessness also are intended to guide the program to create a client-centered homeless assistance system and improve the performance of the existing system.

“The program was developed in response to two important issues identified as challenges by the commission,” said Matilda Chavez, City College’s vice president of instruction. “The first is the desire to fill the increasing number of job openings being created by the unprecedented amount of grant funds coming into the region to serve the homeless population. Second, is to prepare workers for these jobs through educational preparation and training.”

This new course is intended to build upon college certificate programs in mental health work, alcohol and other drug studies and other programs.

SDHC is funding the PEER program with a budget of approximately $187,000, while City College is also bringing some existing San Diego Community College District resources.

According to the college, the PEER program will offer help to students with enrollment and support services needed on campus as well as match students to appropriate internships, work experience or service learning sites with homeless service providers and provide job placement assistance.

Students also will be advised about other San Diego Community College District course offerings that could support their foundational knowledge, such as first aid, defibrillator training, CPR and the administration of NARCAN, which can help can help reverse an opioid overdose.

As a pilot program, the goal of the course is to enroll at least 15 students per semester, and for 80% of students to secure a volunteer position, internship or job in an organization working with individuals and families experiencing homelessness.

The course will provide an introduction to the policies, governance, and operations of the homeless services sector, with a specific focus on the San Diego region. Topics could include overview of the city’s action plan, an introduction to evidence-based practices and an overview of housing interventions and resources, among others.

–City News Service

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