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Shelters to expand, safe havens to open under new homeless strategy

06/21/21

 

Shelter beds will increase, safe havens for people with drug and mental health issues will be created and an intense outreach effort will be launched to address the growing number of homeless encampments on downtown San Diego streets, city and council officials announced Friday.

“What is happening in downtown is totally unacceptable for the residents, for the businesses of this community, but most especially for the people who are living unsheltered in encampments along our sidewalk,” San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria said Friday morning in a press conference outside Golden Hall.

The past several months have seen a growing number of people living on city streets, with an entire block of Commercial Street near Father Joe’s Villages lined with tents.
Gloria said the unsanitary conditions of the encampments creates a public health concern, and he recalled the 2017 hepatitis A outbreak that killed 20 people and hospitalized hundreds in the homeless community.

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Also at the Friday press conference, Board of Supervisors Chairman Nathan Fletcher outlined the second phase of the plan to help people on the street. In August, the county will launch Community Harm-Reduction Teams, or C-HRT, composed of substance-use counselors, peer support specialists, mental health clinicians and nurse practitioners.

C-HRT members will focus on people who are chronically homeless and have mental health and substance use issues. Because that population often will turn down conventional shelters or rehab programs that require a commitment to sobriety, Fletcher said the county plans to open a safe-haven housing program that will provide shelter and services to deal with addictions and behavioral problems.

“When a person is suffering with addiction and mental health issues, it’s not just a matter of giving them a meal, a cot, a roof over their head,” he said. “That may not be enough to get them to come inside.” READ MORE