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Supervisor Fletcher, Mayor Faulconer urge County Board to Allocate $5.4 million for Behavioral Health and Care Coordination Services at Converted Hotel Housing Projects


County, City Partnership Could be New Model for Rapidly Creating New Housing with Supportive Services to Address Homelessness

Working to end the cycle of homelessness for San Diegans during the COVID-19 pandemic, today County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher and Mayor Kevin L. Faulconer, along with Chair of the Regional Task Force on the Homeless (RTFH), Councilmember Chris Ward, and San Diego Housing Commission (SDHC) Executive Vice President & Chief of Staff Jeff Davis unveiled a strategy to provide intensive behavioral health and care coordination services on-site to support up to 400 new units at upcoming rapidly-converted hotel housing projects.

The bipartisan group today urged the County Board of Supervisors to approve as part of its $6.4 billion FY20-21 budget, $5.4 million to fund on-site behavioral health and care coordination to San Diegans who experienced homelessness at the new permanent supportive housing projects.

The City of San Diego, SDHC and RTFH partnered in April with the County of San Diego to provide shelter and services to nearly 1,200 persons experiencing homelessness every day at Operation Shelter to Home at the San Diego Convention Center. The County’s Health and Human Services Agency (HHSA) has provided on-site behavioral health and care coordination services at the operation, expanding on the services provided at the City’s bridge shelters. Now, the agencies are working to replicate and build on the same coordinated care model outside the shelter setting.

These types of services are critical to stabilizing individuals so that they can be successful in permanent housing. In a survey conducted by the SDHC of clients at Operation Shelter to Home nearly 70% of clients required permanent supportive housing level of services or higher to be successful in housing.

“The County can tackle the debilitating cycle of homelessness by making behavioral health and care coordination services more readily available,” said Supervisor Fletcher, Vice-Chair of the Regional Task Force on the Homeless. “Redirecting $5.4 million toward mental health and substance misuse treatment is a better way to use the funds, reduce the reliance on a broken crisis-care model, and ensure people’s needs are being met. I urge my colleagues to join me on Tuesday in supporting this approach.”

Mayor Faulconer and Councilmember Ward have been working with SDHC on transition plans for the individuals staying at the Convention Center. Earlier this month, the SDHC Board of Commissioners authorized SDHC to submit applications to the State Department of Housing and Community Development for “Project Homekey” grant funds for two or more properties. Through the Homekey initiative, the state has made $600 million in grant funds available statewide to purchase and rehabilitate hotels and convert them into interim or permanent housing.  As the City and SDHC are pursuing Homekey funds to pair with other state and federal resources to acquire and rehabilitate up to 400 new units of supportive housing, funding for on-site services is necessary for the viability of the program so that residents have the care necessary to remain stable and successful in housing.

“By converting hotels into hundreds of permanent homes, the City and County of San Diego have an opportunity to continue to lead the state in creating new solutions to reduce homelessness,” Mayor Faulconer said. “It’s critical that when we have keys in hand for these units, we also have the services in place to support them, and the County’s vote Tuesday can ensure that happens.”

If the Board of Supervisors approves the $5.4 million, SDHC will be able to pair these necessary services to clients placed at the new supportive housing units, which will establish a new model for communities in the San Diego and California region for how to address homelessness.

“$5.4 million in behavioral health and care coordination services will give struggling San Diegans the security and peace of mind that a new home is a permanent home,” said Councilmember Ward. “I join Supervisor Fletcher in calling on his colleagues to approve this funding to keep homeless San Diegans safe and healthy from the threats of COVID-19.”

Jeff Davis, SDHC’s Executive Vice President and Chief of Staff, said: “Approving these County funds for supportive services is an essential step to helping so many San Diegans experiencing homelessness achieve the housing stability they need to get back on their feet.”

The majority of the $5.4 million will be used for two years of behavioral health services for the housing projects being pursued by the City and SDHC. The funding will also be available to support behavioral health services at other new housing projects throughout the County, supporting a regional approach to addressing homelessness.

A significant portion of people experiencing homelessness on the street have untreated mental health and substance use conditions and require services to remain in stable housing. Supervisor Fletcher is building a better way to provide behavioral health services in San Diego County, and he has advanced 80 percent of his Behavioral Health Agenda this year, in spite of COVID-19.