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Chair Fletcher, Mayor Gloria Detail Strategies to Address Pervasive Challenges Contributing to Chronic Homelessness

06/18/21

 

Recognizing the growing encampments of homeless people on the sidewalks of Downtown San Diego and the difficulty placing unsheltered people suffering from addiction into existing programs, Mayor Todd Gloria and County Board of Supervisors Chair Nathan Fletcher today detailed a new strategy to address the immediate and long-term challenges facing these vulnerable individuals.

 “Homelessness is the most pressing challenge facing our region. The City and County are in lockstep and fully committed to implementing sound policies and proven strategies that will make a transformational difference in the lives of people who are homeless,” Mayor Gloria said. “It is great to finally have a leader at the County who understands that county government has a significant role to play in fighting homelessness. Chair Fletcher gets that.”

The first phase of the ever-strengthening partnership between the City and County will launch on June 28. Outreach teams will hit the streets for  coordinated and geographically concentrated, month-long outreach campaign to connect individuals who are experiencing homelessness to immediate shelter, housing-navigation and behavioral-health services and medical care for those in need.

As it stands today, there are no shelters or other housing options for people experiencing homeless who are not sober or actively committed to sobriety. The second phase, building on experiences from Phase 1 and scheduled to launch in August, addresses the struggle of those who are chronically homeless with severe substance-use disorder by engaging them with teams who can link them to health and social services, including specialized temporary housing, regardless of the status of their sobriety.

Community Harm Reduction Teams (C-HRT) will be initially deployed into the central region of San Diego, with expected expansion to other areas of the county. C-HRT will provide robust outreach and engagement, connection to primary care and behavioral health services, and bridge housing, including Safe Haven housing, to individuals with chronic substance-use and mental health conditions.

 “Each person experiencing homelessness has their own unique set of circumstances, but addiction and mental health injury are common contributors to chronic homelessness, requiring a distinct response to meet their particular needs,” said Chair Fletcher. “We are investing in a better way, an approach that is different from what we have done in the past. We expect to achieve better outcomes with this strategy. You can’t continue to throw money at a problem using the same old playbook.”

These new programs further demonstrate the newfound commitment to collaboration between the City and County to comprehensively address homelessness and tackle the behavioral health challenges facing this population.

MONTH-LONG OUTREACH (PHASE 1)

This unprecedented action will involve outreach workers from PATH, the Downtown San Diego Partnership, Father Joe’s Villages and Alpha Project.

These workers’ efforts will be complemented by County Public Health nurses and eligibility and social workers from the Office of Homeless Solutions and Equitable Communities to provide onsite support with public assistance programs and links to county and community services, as well as behavioral-health providers.

The San Diego Police Department’s Homeless Outreach Team will participate in a supporting role, including transportation and logistics.

Bolstering this concentrated outreach campaign is a phased expansion of capacity at four shelters for people experiencing homelessness, made possible by the June 15 easing of statewide COVID-19 restrictions. In the coming weeks, roughly 300 beds will be added at the Paul Mirabile Center (operated by Father Joe’s Villages), two East Village shelters operated by Alpha Project, and Connections Housing (operated by PATH) – bringing total capacity to approximately 1,400 beds. The San Diego Housing Commission administers the contracts for the these and additional City-funded homelessness shelters and services programs.

COMMUNITY HARM REDUCTION TEAMS AND SAFE HAVEN HOUSING (PHASE 2)

This transformative approach to addressing homelessness pairs outreach and engagement with care-coordination services and low-barrier access to housing with the goal of improving client wellness and stability. Community Harm Reduction Teams (C-HRT) will use evidence-based practices to engage people with highly complex and acute needs who are experiencing homelessness and at increased risk of harm due to substance use and mental health conditions.

This program is planned to expand throughout the region but will target
areas indicating the greatest need with services commencing in the Central
Region of the County. According to the San Diego Regional Task Force on the Homeless’ Point in Time Count, this area, which includes the City of San Diego, currently and historically comprises the largest concentration of people experiencing homelessness.

The County of San Diego and City of San Diego will dedicate American Rescue Plan Act funds to this critical effort.

The program will incorporate two components:

1. C-HRT are multidisciplinary teams (substance-use counselors, peer support, mental health clinicians, and psychiatric consultation with nurse practitioners) designed to engage homeless individuals with substance use and co-occurring conditions in a concentrated geographic area. C-HRT provides ongoing care-coordination services, low-barrier harm-reduction services, including Naloxone and syringe services, referrals to primary care and behavioral health services, medication management, and medicated assisted treatment, transportation, and bridge housing that includes onsite wraparound services within links to permanent supportive housing.

2. C-HRT will provide low barrier and immediate access to bridge housing, including short-term beds and Safe Haven housing, consistent with harm-reduction practices, where clients can be connected to permanent supportive housing, which is widely needed throughout the region.

After convening a working group with representatives from Mayor Gloria’s office, Chair Fletcher’s office, HHSA, the Regional Task Force on the Homeless and the San Diego Housing Commission to strategize and address urgent homeless needs within Downtown, Mayor Gloria has committed $10 million of the City’s budget to funding for operational costs of the expanded shelter space and safe haven and other complementary programs, and additional federal and state resources will support the acquisition of permanent supportive housing.

The County of San Diego will provide funding for C-HRT teams, along with behavioral health and support services at the new bridge shelter and Safe Haven sites. Additionally, the County will explore the availability of more short-and long-term housing resources countywide that align with the harm reduction strategy.

The County of San Diego is currently reviewing options to augment services to address immediate needs. The County team is working diligently to get this new service operationalized. 

During this phased expansion, the City and its shelter operators will provide ongoing access to vaccinations and regularly monitor COVID test results to keep everyone safe.

These strategies align with the Community Action Plan on Homelessness, the City of San Diego’s blueprint for addressing homelessness. They are also consistent with widely accepted best practices supported and deployed by the San Diego Housing Commission and the Regional Task Force on the Homeless. 

On Monday, the San Diego City Council passed Mayor Gloria’s budget on a unanimous vote. It allocates more than $10 million for the fight against homelessness and includes:

  • The creation of a new Homelessness Strategies Department to ensure the City is set up to be successful in its efforts to end homelessness
  • More than $7 million for new approaches to help people struggling with substance use and addiction to exit homelessness, including expander shelter space and safe havens
  • $1 million to expand the People Assisting the Homeless (PATH)
    Coordinated Street Outreach Program, which uses a person-centered, neighborhood-based approach to cultivate trusting relationships with unsheltered residents and connect them to housing and services
  • $1 million to expand rapid-rehousing programs to serve an additional 100 households, including rental assistance and case management
  • $300,000 to expand workforce training programs needed to bring more people into a career in providing homelessness services, such as the Homelessness Program for Engaged Educational Resources (PEER) course, a first-of-its-kind collaboration between the San Diego Housing Commission and San Diego City College

On June 8, the San Diego County Board of Supervisors agreed to use $85
million from the American Rescue Plan Act to homeless services, including:

  • $70 million for housing, shelter, including acquisition of facilities
    and wraparound Services
  • $10 million for housing vouchers and local rent subsidy program and services
  • $5 million for LGBTQ homeless services and housing
  • Future state and federal funding will be considered in developing the final countywide plan