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New homeless facility and homeless count

January 26, 2012 1:14 p.m.


Kevin Faulconer, San Diego City Councilmember, (District 2)

Peter Callstrom, executive director of the Regional Task Force on the Homeless

Related Story: Construction Begins On Permanent Homeless Shelter


This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

SAUER: This is KPBS Midday Edition. I'm Mark Sauer, filling in for Maureen Cavanaugh. It's Thursday, January 26th. Our top story on Midday Edition, work began this morning on San Diego's new permanent homeless facility, called connections housing, meant to be a one stop shot for shows struggling at the far margins of our society. A thousand homeless people struggle each day to survive in the downtown area. There are near six thousand homeless city-wide, nine thousand in San Diego County. We'll learn if those numbers are on the rise. Joining me today are Kevin Faulconer, the City Council man whose district includes downtown San Diego.

FAULCONER: Thanks for having me.

SAUER: And Peter Callstrom, executive director of the Regional Task Force on the Homeless.

CALLSTROM: Hi, Mark . Good afternoon.

SAUER: And we'd love to have our listeners join our conversation. If you have a question or opinion, please give us a call. 1-888-895-5727. Kevin Faulconer, you've just come from the event marking the construction launch for this new center. It's located at A and 6th avenue downtown.

FAULCONER: The site is the old world trade center building. And we were just there. And it was an exciting day, Mark. There were so many people who thought we could never get to this point where we brought not only certainly our City Council together last year when we voted to move forward to this project, but also our downtown residents and businesses that live around the new site. And it's exciting for a couple reasons. It's all about helping people. It's about helping people transition out of homelessness off the street into a supportive housing environment. And why I became such a strong supporter of this concept was because it's not just providing beds, of which there are going to be 223 beds, but it's those other services that help people make that transition, and services such as employment training, veterans' assistance, medical, psychiatric, county services all under one roof. We've come a long way. And as I said just a couple hours ago when we had the groundbreaking, the proof 8 be in the pudding to demonstrate that this works. And my hope is that not only will it work for downtown San Diego but it'll be a model that we can replicate in other parts of the city.

SAUER: Okay. And so that is the one stop concept that you were talking about. It's the real umbrella notion.

CALLSTROM: It is indeed. Now as I think anybody who's listening probably knows, there's a lot of great services and a lot of great providers, and they're scatted throughout different locations. The idea was to bring some of these more important services underneath one roof. So it's available there because as I think -- and Peter certainly knows, it's about providing support of services it's not just about an emergency bed.

SAUER: How much is this center going to cost, and who's going to pay for it?

FAULCONER: It's about $34 million. And a center this size, a lot of it is going to rehab the old building, which has been in downtown San Diego for a number of years. And it was a combination of sources. The center city development corporation through redevelopment dollars. We had community development block grant money, moneys from the housing and redevelopment, HUD. So it really was a cobbling together of a variety of sources as you can imagine, to try to make this happen. And we had many of the funders there today, and certainly some of the financial institutions were there. People that believed that this will make a difference, and that it can work. And so we're looking forward to about ten or 11 months from now is when we're estimating that the center would open in downtown San Diego. And it's my fervent hope that this is a model that will not only work in downtown where we have the most acute issues with homelessness, but we can make it work in other parts of the city because homelessness is not just a downtown San Diego issue.

SAUER: And you've made that point many times with the council over the years. We scramble each other to get the temporary shelter up. It sounds like this is ready in December next year, that will help. But what will the relationship be with this and the temporary shelter?

FAULCONER: Well, alpha project who is a provider that manages and operates the city's emergency winter shelter every year. They're going to be providing services here at the new connections center. And the idea was to have not just a winter facility, so homelessness isn't an issue just when it's cold, but now we're going to have for the first time, 24 hours a day, seven-days a week, year-round. And from my standpoint, I thought that was one of the most important things we're doing. It's not just something you do a couple months of the year, but it's going to be there in downtown every day, and every week of the year. And as the council member who's fortunate enough to represent downtown, I've worked a lot with our surrounding neighbors and businesses, because as you might knowledge, there's a lot of questions about how would this work, how would it be integrated into the community. So we've done a lot of community outreach and meetings. Those are going to continue. I thought you saw that today at the groundbreaking. There was a lot of positive optimism about what we're going to be able to accomplish there.

SAUER: But we'll still have the yearly winter shelter. ?

FAULCONER: That'll be up for the council to determine. I think it's great to have, like I said, not just a temporary facility that you put up but now we have a permanent home.

SAUER: Right. Now, we've -- last year's homeless count, Peter, revealed there were nine thousand people in the county living on the street. Remind our listeners why it's important to measure how many people are homeless, and tell us about the count that's coming up.

CALLSTROM: It's important, No. 1, it's a HUD mandate. This has been in place since the mid-2000s, when they put in place this concept called the point in time count. In the last week of January every year throughout the country, cities, counties, providers, span out throughout their origin to go and do a street by street accounting for who is out there so that we can get a true sense of the numbers of people who are homeless so that we can know at that point in time as well as see some trends, what's going on, what progress is being made. But it allows HUD to be able to complete the national picture what's going on, and see big picture what's happening, and where the dollars need to go. As a result of the point in time count data that we send back to HUD, it leads to about $60 million in federal funds that come back to our region that go to providers like alpha and connections and father Joe's, and you name it around the county so that we can invest in more solutions throughout the entire region. And it's great to hear Kevin Faulconer talking about this as a regional issue because that's key. Downtown is certainly impacted more than anywhere else. But this is a regional solution. This connections housing is a great solution. And this is the model that we need throughout our whole county. And this is the start. And more needs to happen. But it can't all be in did the.

SAUER: This year, I understand you have about 700 volunteers helping with the count?

CALLSTROM: We do want.

SAUER: Walk us through what they do, what they're looking for.

CALLSTROM: And our honorable council member will be out there in the streets.

SAUER: Really! That's a little early for you.

CALLSTROM: And his whole team, I believe, his staff will join us.

FAULCONER: We'll be out there bright and early.

CALLSTROM: But it's 4:00 AM.

SAUER: Should have some clear weather anyhow.

CALLSTROM: So 5:00 AM to 8:00 AM, we go out to cover every single street throughout the entire county. All that data is aggregated. We mark it on maps, individuals vehicles, hand built structures, all that goes into our data system so we can produce an analysis for the cities, the counties so we get a good sense of where are we, what needs to be done. From that, there's an important second piece to this, and that's where we do one-on-one interviews or surveys of people who are living on the street, currently, and we're going to be targeting about one thousand individuals who will be interviewed in the coming week.

SAUER: We've got a caller on line one. Pat.

NEW SPEAKER: Hi of course I'll turn off my radio. Yeah, I have a question. Well, a couple. But one is hour do you select who will be able go into the park and stay in the beds, and how long would they be there? And the next one is a comment. I just went to the south bay for the homeless count meeting last night and was told that there are homeless who now move out of downtown because there's more violent homeless down there, some with pit bulls, and so my question is how do you deal with that situation too?

FAULCONER: Well, are the homeless outreach team, the San Diego police department does a good job of monitoring this. If there is any violence, I know the HOT team is out there to deal with it. And unfortunately it occurs but it has to be dealt with aggressively like any kind of crime. And regarding the intake for connections housing, I think that's all going to be determined but Kevin Faulconer can speak to that.

FAULCONER: It is, and the partners there, in the path with the connection housing, there'll be a screening process for those individuals that need help. And one of the things that I think makes the center so unique, there's a combination of services. Not only will there be one there are interim housing, beds, but there's beds for special needs and 73 permanent supportive housing apartment units. This is a large building, as you can tell, several stories. But having that connection, having all of those services right there, as I said before, is one of the reasons I think we have a really good shot of making this a very successful model because all of the research in those that are far more expert in this field than myself will tell you, it's about supportive housing. It's not just about giving somebody a bed and saying off you go. It's about helping them make that transition to get back to their feet. And that's what we're going to be able to do.

SAUER: Mike from Chula Vista. Go ahead.

NEW SPEAKER: I'm a psychiatric nurse here in one of the major hospitals in San Diego. And 90% of the problem out there is the bill of diagnosis. And just the primary diagnosis of substance abuse. And how is that going to be monitored, and will there be man dated alcoholics unanimous and other options for recovery? And how will the substance abuse going on in the follow facility be monitored?

CALLSTROM: Great question. And I think the caller hit it on the head when he mentioned the dually diagnosed.

SAUER: Explain that for us.

CALLSTROM: The unfortunately reality is many of the individuals that are homeless are dually diagnosed, meaning mental health problems, and substance abuse problems. So to have that dual diagnosis means there's some real issues, obviously, that need to be dealt with. Part of the center, part of what they're calling the path depot inside the facility, there's going to be the downtown family health center. And they are going to provide not only medical services as I mentioned before, but also mental healthcare services and substance abuse services. And as the caller as I said, rightly mentioned, that continues to be one of the biggest hurdles to help individuals get back on their feet. We knew that when we put this out to bring all these persons together, that had to be a large part of it, other so family health centers is going to be taking the lead and moving their new services into the facility.

SAUER: Peter, how many years have we done the count?

CALLSTROM: It began in 2005. There was counting going on before that, but it was less structured than it is now. So we have a good --

SAUER: Good database.

CALLSTROM: A number of years of data that we can build upon.

SAUER: And last year, there was a surprising number of veterans from current wars?

CALLSTROM: Yeah, well, we have more returning vets than in any other region of the country, double that of LA. So we is the greatest challenge here. And thanks to VTSD, and father Joe's, they're doing all they can to head it off. But we have a crisis in this arena of veterans' services. And at STANDDOWN, they served over 1,200 people just this year and only have services or beds for a fraction of that. So much more needs to be done, but yes, we have had many more returning vets from aren't conflicts than we've seen in aren't years.

SAUER: And what about children?

CALLSTROM: Children unaccompanied, as well as in families. So again, through this count, we're able to get a handle on how many folks there are who are in different age brackets and walks of life, and what their challenges are. But yes, far too many youth, and far too many -- really from every stripe of life. We have folks who are older, and they're going to be far more vulnerable too because of more health conditions and more challenges. Again, thanks to this project, this kind of model, this is what needs to be put in place so that we can make more headway in bringing these numbers down. And we talk about solving homelessness. It's really a solvable issue. It's solved one person at a time. And this kind of model allows us to be able to do that, because the transitional beds for example, when you think of that, are it's transitional. So people get supported, they get the services, they move on onto permanent supportive housing in another setting so more people can come in, so people are moving through in this depot model, and as was described today at the ceremony this is a depot for their journey in life and where they're going to be next, and where they need to be now in order to get the help so that they can end their homelessness. We don't want to just serve it and manage it. We want people to get off the street permanently and into good supportive housing.

SAUER: You mentioned unaccompanied miners. Kyla Calvert, our education reporter is working on a story in the schools and how these folks move through. Can you explain what that means a little bit?

CALLSTROM: Well, unaccompanied youth, those minors on their own literally without any parental support. And that number is an illusive figure because many of those youth do not access services. And when we're doing the count too, you don't know their age. You can only find out through the survey portion that happens the week after our count. But we know far too many kids are on the street. But we just know too many people are on the street, period. But we need solutions like this that really address it. And what's exciting about this is it's a full partnership of the county, the cities, the downtown partnership, the business district, and it's really exciting because this is a pretty novel concept. And what needs to happen for us to make great headway.

SAUER: Well, it's quite a busy part of downtown, and it's great that Kevin Faulconer and the council folks and all you working in this project can get these folks to sign on. Because I know there was a lot of resistance early on.

FAULCONER: It wasn't easy. Fear of the unknown is a powerful emotion, but I think fortunately with a lot ever meetings and outreach began to develop community support. But the real support will be demonstrated when the center is up and working.

SAUER: And about December?

FAULCONER: That's the timeline, absolutely. November or December.

SAUER: Okay, very good. Leave it there. Thank you both for joining me today.