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Father Joe Discusses Goals Of Project 25 Homeless Plan


San Diego is moving forward with a plan to provide housing and supportive services to 25 of the region's most chronic homeless individuals. We speak to Father Joe Carroll, from St. Vincent De Paul Village, about the goals of the project and the challenges that local homeless are dealing with nowadays.

San Diego is moving forward with a plan to provide housing and supportive services to 25 of the region's most chronic homeless individuals. We speak to Father Joe Carroll, from St. Vincent De Paul Village, about the goals of the project and the challenges that local homeless are dealing with nowadays.


Father Joe Carroll, president of St. Vincent De Paul Village in downtown San Diego

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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.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I'm Maureen Cavanaugh and you're listening to These Days on KPBS. This month, father Joe careful announced his participation in a new program, aimed at helping San Diego's chronic homeless population. It's an off shoot of the so called housing first effort being tried in other cities across the nation. This new program called project 25 is the latest in a variety of homeless initiatives being handled by Father Joe's Villages. Over the years, father Joe has become, in many ways, the face of San Diego's efforts to address the needs of the homeless, and it's a pleasure to welcome Father Joe Carroll to These Days. Good morning, father. Welcome to these days.

CARROLL: Good morning, Maureen, thanks a lot.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Now, we invite our listeners to join the conversation. Have you been involved in any of father Joe's programs? What can you tell us about them N do you have questions about how to help the homeless in San Diego? Give us a call with your questions and your comments. Our number here is 1-888-895-5727. That's 1-888-895-KPBS. So father Joe, what were the goals of this new project 25 program?

CARROLL: Well, what we've got -- the city regional traffic force, and other groups have done, is identify, particularly through hospital records, approximately a hundred of what we call frequent flyers, people -- you [CHECK] county of mental health, and you kind of stabilize them, then you put them back out in the street, it's only a matter of time till he's back in. And this has cost the city and the state, millions and millions of dollars. So by identifying approximately 25 of them, what if we develop a program over the next 25 years, get them into housing, make sure they follow through with services they need, whether it's psychological medical counseling, you know, what type of help do they need? [CHECK] cut back on them over time, but only stay in touch with that client so we don't keep these frequent nippers [CHECK] can we find a system that works for this group? So united way put up the funding, and the reason nobody does this, nobody had the funding, [CHECK] and chose Vincent saint Paul, because we're the originator of the one stop approach.


CARROLL: Because everything you need is probably [CHECK] addiction personnel, mental health personnel, you know, as well as regular straightforward case managers, so we're qualified to really, just take this [CHECK] 25 people over the next three years, and what makes it work, hopefully, we can transfer that to all the programs in the coupe.

THE COURT: Now, my understanding is that the program is geared toward [CHECK] and one of the reasons for that, besides the humanitarian aspect of it is the amount of money that that actually costs the city, having people access emergency area facilities over and over and over again.

CARROLL: Oh, yeah, and taxes the police, because the police have to pick them up on the street, go to the hospital, stay at the hospital, because they're technically prisoners of so you got all of our perm tied up, and we need to find a solution for that. [CHECK] 7, 8, million dollars a year for just 25 people. So there has to be a better wear. Other cities concentrate on this group, provide similar services that we will be doing. And saw it works, [CHECK] but that cuts the cost tremendously, because you all the know, and I know, when it take them to emergency rooms, [CHECK].

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Isn't there I problem ownership a potential trick involved in some we in getting people who have been on the streets for such I long time to accept being in housing? Is there a problem with that? Or am I wrong?

CARROLL: No, there is. And that's why I one of the important things united way is [CHECK] if you take these 25 individuals, they have an element of trust in [CHECK].


CARROLL: Because we've been there for them, feeding them, caring for them, helping them, so they'll trust us to stay, if we get you in housing, you know, we get you sewn are, and now you understand what's happening, if we get you if housing, we will not abandon you. Of the whole idea ever this, is we will work with you to help you control the problems that you -- you know, if we take them to the street, leave them alone, the problems come back. Hopefully when they're in this department, they'll be visited by this team of psychologists, [CHECK] they generally want to stay there. But they're afraid that if the services stop, they're gonna fall down again.

THE COURT: Right. They're gonna be back out on the street.

CARROLL: And that's the idea. So I think it's an element of my staff have a great relationship with the homeless, and ever there, they say, well, we'll trust you guys because you've always been there for you.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: And where are these apartments gonna be.

CARROLL: Well, they'll be spread thought the community, because some will be on property we own, some will be on apartments owned we the Catholic charities, apartments owned by the salvation army. [CHECK] and a big roll player in this is the housing commission, who took 25 of their housing vouchers, you know, normally it's I 3 to 5-year waiting list. If you say a homeless person gotta wait [CHECK] they're sending out give vouchers so we can immediately get federal funding through the housing commission to use to get there's people apartments. So the agencies aren't giving them away free, they're gonna get their costs covered of so it works. The housing commission sends out 25 housing vouchers is a very important part of this relationship.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I'm speaking with father Joe carol, we're talking with the goals of the new 25, to help 25 people who are homeless, and of course larger [CHECK] our number is 1-888-895-5727. If you'd like to join the conversation, that's 1-888-895-KPBS. Factor Joe, Los Angeles and Seattle have a similar program to our project 25, and as part of this housing first movement that a number of cities are trying across the country. One of the innovative aspects of this is that those projects don't require participants to quit drinking or drugs or seek psychiatric help. [CHECK] but that's not a requirement for them to stay in those apartments. Is that a requirement for the people in project 25?

CARROLL: No, it won't be. But it'll be strongly encouraged. And obviously you don't want them to be on drinking binges in apartments just serving people. So it's gonna be a matter of each one will be taken into consideration. He won't be kicked out of the program because he had something to drink or went on a little binge. But hopefully we'll be able to get them to a point -- that's the point of a coordinator, we can get you into a dry situation, but initially, you can't demand that because it may not work. Our goal is to get these people stable, but that trust has gotta be there. And if they break the rule, you know, we'll live with it for a while. But eventually you can't do is this. Seattle particularly has what they call a wet facility. You can drink all you want. But you're off the street. That's not what we're looking for. We're looking for [CHECK].

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: What are some of the things that you have learned from these other programs, besides that Seattle has this wet facility and that's not exactly what we want to duplicate? But have there been substantial positive results from these other pilot programs.

CARROLL: Oh, yeah, all over the country you see it helping. When they take this core group. The key is, the [CHECK] with bill today, he may need psychiatric care, he may need medical care, and the tradition is, we give him meals, and a place to sleep. But now we found out, this guy may need medical care, this one needs psychiatric care, this one needs addiction care, the idea is through project 25 is the team approach, that [CHECK] they're assigned to a team that includes the case manager, that includes someone be that's a psychiatrist, someone with a medical background, so there's a team approach, so when woo find out what really works with this person, we can concentrate on that, rather than [CHECK] Vincent's was chosen, 'cause if we find something we didn't think about, probably it's on our property somewhere, we can take in a team member.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: We are taking your calls at 1-888-895-5727. Right now, Richard is on the line from downtown, good morning, Richard, welcome to These Days.

CARROLL: Morning, Richard.

NEW SPEAKER: Yeah, thank you. My idea is to -- if you'll partner the expression, build a concentration camp out in east county, and when these people are arrested for sleeping on public property between the hours of sunset and sunrise, instead of taking them to the jail, take them out to this concentration camp where they have beds, showers, meals, counseling, and all the other things, and you would solve two problems. You'd give them what they need, and you would get rid of the -- you know, the -- what do you call it? Eye soar of people sleeping on public property.


CARROLL: [CHECK]. What you need to do is build downtown and throughout the entire community, whatever they are gathering up homeless, facilities to handle it where it's at. You can't move it out of town because -- one, all kinds of civil rights [CHECK] but what we need to do is increase facilities to keep up with it. Of it's kind of like, as the city grows, and we get more people with cancer, look at all the hospitals that are expanding in the community. But we don't allow homeless facilities to expand to keep up with the homeless population, that's on the streets 678 the idea of shipping them out, [CHECK] New York tried it, Vegas was thinking about it, it doesn't work in our experience. What works is concentrating programs where they are, they will come in, and then through intensive -- through programs, then you can go out into the communities. You won't even know. With families, we have a [CHECK] with single adults, we have a 68, 69 percent success rate. Once they go through the program. [CHECK].

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: [CHECK]. When you talk about 25 individuals selected, first of all, how do you go about making that selection, and is that enough to make any kind of a difference at all aside from, of course, in the lives of the 25 individuals?

CARROLL: Well, in the one, you already have a list, and through all the surveys we've done, we go out and we do point and time count, the task force is getting ready to do it at the end of January. We actually got below 4:00 o'clock in the morning [CHECK] the hospitals have regulars who come in every week, every other month, to their hospitals issue those list of compiles, out of those will be picked a hundred names, 25 of whom will be in this. Granted, this is an experimental project, this is not a solution. We're hoping through this to find out what we agencies need to change and provide to did reach more people. But see, none of us, we're so busy handling the crowds, woo [CHECK] coming to one of our programs, we don't need time to study. This enable business us with special funding from united way, to study the problem, and say, you know, this is what we should have been doing all along, but we never thought about it. So the whole idea here is to learn from the population, and then make adjustments from the next ten years, 12 years, in all our programs, to adjust and serve the population.

THE COURT: Let's take another call. We are taking your calls at 1-888-895-5727. Robin is calling from San Diego. Good morning, Robin, welcome to These Days.

CARROLL: Hi Robin.

NEW SPEAKER: Thank you very much. My question has to do with the very strict requirements, anybody who gets a housing voucher from the housing commission, there's a very strict set of rules. And I'm wondering how the people in the project 25 will they be subject to those same very strict rules that some other person with a housing vouch upper would be?


CARROLL: I said yeah, because it's federal law. [CHECK] the difference with this population is they're gonna have a concentration of staff to assist them to make sure they stay within the guidelines of the rules, regulations. Remember, we will presume they will all be stable used before they go into that housing. You know, they will be ready for it, and then we'll be there to monitor them to make sure they abide by all rules and regulations that the law requires.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: And Jim is calling us from San Clemente. [CHECK].

NEW SPEAKER: It's interesting, I think father Joe is trying to find out, you're trying to find other methods [CHECK] clarification about Seattle's wet program, which I'm pretty familiar with. Seattle was spending millions of dollars on chronic street alcoholics, and it wasn't until the city really did an audit, and the amount of money they were spending on this same group of chronic street alcoholics that they came up with the wet facility program, and it saved the city millions of dollars [] spending that money in housing. So I think that was just an important clarification that it was something that came about, you know, after many, many years of trying to figure out, you know, how best to treat chronic street alcoholics. And so that's how that program came about.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Jim, thanks for the call. And that's the whole point in learning what particularly, San Diego, needs to address chronic homelessness.

CARROLL: Exactly 'cause we did the same study, and came up with the fact these 25 or a hundred people cost millions and millions of dollars, and is there a better way? And we're gonna try over the next three years to discover that for San Diego. It may be a little different that be Seattle. Every city -- we're hoping not to go through the model [CHECK] every community's a little bit different, a little different resources issue a little different problem, [CHECK] what's gonna work for San Diego. Of.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I told you before we had our conversation on the air, father Joe, that I was downtown last week, and I was around the courthouse, and it seemed to me that I was seeing more homeless people than I had ever seen downtown before. And I asked you, was my perception correct.

CARROLL: And I said yes. There are times that I drive home at night and wonder what we've done in 28 years. But the numbers are way up. In 2009, in all our facilities, we average about [CHECK] 34 people a day, you know, we house a thousand people a night. But then people come in for meals, for medical care, particularly our misdemeanor clinics are very busy because people have lost their jobs, lost their medical care. [CHECK] on the edge or on the margin because of the economy, which is logical, and then [CHECK].

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: So what are you seeing about changes in the homeless population? Has it -- has the population changed in recent years?

CARROLL: Yeah, it has. It's -- we changed our program, we used to have, like, a two-year rehab program, we changed what we call graphic rehousing. Some of the people who just lost their income can't pay rent, they only need four months to stabilize, get a new job, and get out. Others need to go through addiction rehab, others need to go through mental health. So we've done ours, we fox on, how [CHECK] to some, it may take the two full years, if it's something we have to go in through project 25, it will tick three years for us to find out what really works, so the changing population is making the agencies, [CHECK] how did we adjust to the changing population, which is, again, more stable but lost everything because of the economy? And needs to reorganize their lives.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Let's take another call, Daniel is calling from Clairemont. Good morning, Daniel, and welcome to These Days.

NEW SPEAKER: Thank you so much, Maureen, and thank you so much for the father for what he does.

CARROLL: Thanks Daniel.

NEW SPEAKER: I just wanted to know that we don't have any safe zones here in San Diego. We have a lot of people, families, living in cars and RVs, but there's no place for them to park the RV over night without having a problem with transients living and tickets and citations and problems. I ran for city council [CHECK] and when I was cleaning out the RV, the police came by and said, hey, what are you doing? Are you living in this? I said no. I let them inspect the RV and showed them that I just purchased it. And there's a lot of hassle out there. And I don't believe as much anymore, but we really need to help these people. Of we don't need to hinder them.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Let me get a response, Daniel. And thank you very much for which the call. What about safe areas for people who are living in their cars and RVs?

CARROLL: Well, we found out is that a lot of assistant district attorneys who did that, they end up becoming crime areas. Somebody will go in this and take advantage of everybody. [CHECK] and land set aside, it becomes problematic. LA did a few tent cities, and eventually, you know, one element took control of it, you know, because the cops are not there 24 hours, and staffing's not there 24 hours of we would prefer to say they need to get into a program where they can park their RV, a program to get them off the street. They can't make that a lifestyle because most cities and communities don't want people parking on their street in front of their homes. Our goal is, how do we get everybody into I program that work enforce them to get them off the street once and for all? Whether they're in cars or RVs or whatever.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Jason is calling from San Diego. Jason, welcome to These Days. Of.

NEW SPEAKER: Good morning. My concern is, in the last two years I've helped three people who have been homeless. One that lost their house, one that was sleeping in the car. And what I found is that this is a mentality. I know bad things happen. But sometimes people don't want to get on their feet. One of these people that I helped, she was receiving IHHS payments, she was working a side job and getting a housing ark allowance. Now, what's gonna -- how can -- and this has happened, I know a couple of people who have done this. So my concern is, we give people help, but we're not teaching them to help themselves.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Jason, let me get a response from father Joe on that. What do you say for people who -- [CHECK] might abuse the privilege?

CARROLL: Well, the difference between you helping a homeless person, and an individual helping a homeless punish or a professional. We're professionals at it. We know all the scams. We put them through a very extensive program. And we tell them, don't do one-on-one. Of if somebody comes to you in need, give them the phone number. The no one February is 211, 211. Every agency uses that number. [CHECK] Catholic charities, and we will take them. We know all the scams they got. And upon, everybody feels sorry for them. But it's the best program. Get them into a recognized professional program. Don't want try to do it yourself because they're scam artists by nature. And they're gonna take advantage of it. Then you're gonna get mad. And I'm telling you now, they're scam artists. So if you help a person, and they scam you, [CHECK] don't get upset about it. But when they come in to see professional case managers and psychiatrists, we're used to that, we're used to breaking the screen, and used to saying, if you really want to change, here's what you gotta do, and if you [CHECK] we don't wanna change, okay, go back out to the street. Of it's not a free ride. We expect you to produce, and to bring about change. And that's what makes the difference between the edges handling it than an individual or a church group that comes downtown and helps the homeless. [CHECK], I think you enabled them. We will challenge them to really bring about change. That's where we could say success rates in the 90 percent with families, 65 to 87 percent with single adults, and that's when [CHECK] project 25 is for us to find out what do we need to get this group into the program, finally?

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: And finally, father Joe, what kind of challenges have saint Vincent de-Paul been dealing with over this recession or economic hard times?

CARROLL: Well, right now, we gotta go over our budget, we gotta cut $4 million of our budget. [CHECK] we used up you will our reserves, this is the case we gotta make the are cuts, we'll be cutting children's programs, run away teens programs. [CHECK] figuring out what we need to cut because donations are just way down. So the big thing now, everybody out there does a donation. And if you don't like me, send it to your favorite charity who deals with the homeless. [CHECK] and I still get a place to sleep, other people don't. Let's make a defense.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Father Joe carol, thanks so much.

CARROLL: You're welcome. Thanks Maureen.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: And if you would like to comment, please go on-line, Days. Coming up, will new concerns about fluorination continue to delay San Diego's effort to add fluoride to our drinking water and that is ahead as we continue with These Days, here on KPBS.

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