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San Diego Councilman Chris Ward Proposes Temporary Housing Plan For Homeless

July 25, 2017 1:52 p.m.

San Diego Councilman Chris Ward Proposes Temporary Housing Plan For Homeless


Chris Ward, District 3 councilman, San Diego

Related Story: San Diego Councilman Chris Ward Proposes Temporary Housing Plan For Homeless


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.

The San Diego city Council's new select committee on homelessness heard a package of proposals on Monday aimed at providing help for people living in tents, on the streets, and in their cars. City Councilman Chris Ward calls this four-point plan an immediate initial response to the cities on sheltered crisis. The Senate select committee heard the recommendations and Senate dates said it would commit with the mayor's office and propose a full proposal. I spoke with Chris Ward and why he presented it to the homeless been committee. Welcome to the committee.

Thank you for having me.

Reporter: Much of the city’s efforts towards homelessness have been aimed at securing more permanent housing. Why are you proposing interim measures?

We are certainly committed to permanent housing solutions and we have a way to go to be able to address the entire population of those experiencing homelessness as well as many San Diego that are challenged with housing affordability and are at risk of homelessness. In the meantime, some of the solutions might be three years away, what we do about 3200 on sheltered individuals who are on the streets? This is a humanitarian crisis and to some extent possible I think there is an opportunity for the city to use some of its resources to provide an immediate betting care.

Reporter: Now you would like to open up Golden Hall down town or the practice field for bridge housing for the homeless. First of all, what is bridge housing

Bridge housing opportunities provide safe places for individuals who may already have a voucher in hand or otherwise just entered the city they system and our waiting for permanent unit but have not been able to make the connection quite yet.

Reporter: You want to limit access to these facilities to 90 days. There are veterans in San Diego who have had vouchers for a while but can't find any housing. I am wondering where will the city be able to find housing for 90 days for the homeless at these facilities.

I think the city has definitely been trying to step up its efforts to be able to place people in 90 days or less. We do not want to bring anyone into a bridge housing opportunity and have them put back on the street in a couple weeks away from ultimately securing the housing. It is a flexible target, but I think it gives us the extra commitment to be able to try and stay on an aggressive timeline to connect people to permanent housing opportunities. That keeps is consistent with housing first principles and federal guidelines.

Reporter: to the coordinated entry system or CES is a feature in each of the format proposals in your plan. How does the CES system work?

Coordinate entering broadly means we want to make sure individuals who are touching homeless related services and housing they are evaluated and assessed for the individualized needs, and we are appropriately directing them to the kinds of services and housing types that meet those needs. Coordinated entry means no matter where you touch the system dish with hippie golden Hall site, father Joe’s villages, Village of San Diego, any of the existing opportunity placing for homeless individuals that they would be able to get into this same pipeline and received this same kind of opportunity for success.

Reporter: You also proposed expanding safe parking zones in the city. Is this for people who are living in their bagels?

That is correct. Our appointed time count from last January indicated over 800 individuals or families to begin their vehicles and I had the opportunity to visit one of our privately operated safe parking zones that is a program that is currently helping between 60 and 70 individuals and obviously the need is much greater. Individuals living in their car at least have the opportunity for some amount of security, but they are running afoul of the law. They are getting tickets for being on city streets. When what they need is the bridge opportunity and case manager on site. Many of them are already gainfully employed. They are just in between housing and we need to make sure that we are providing them with some compassion and ability to have a secure and safe area for them to get a relatively decent night sleep without fear of arrest and be able to get on with their lives the next day.

Reporter: We would you propose the zone be?

That is open for future discussion. I want to in concept if the discussion started so we can get more information from the mayor's office about opportunity sites. One thing that did come out of the community hearing was a commitment that something I've been talking about for months now -- we need to look at all public lands and other kinds of a traditional parcels that the city has in its portfolio for housing or other kinds of opportunities days something that County recently took on and shortly thereafter they were identified 11 opportunity sites across the county regionally that would be able to afford some kind of future housing or related facility.

Reporter: You also talk about the need for more care zones for the homeless. Can you explain what those are?

Care zones are essentially permitted encampments. You have right now what I see as an uncoordinated and very challenged environment -- tents and people -- that are all over the streets and communities. If we have areas that it was lawful to pitch a tent, we can also better coordinate social services on site and much like we do that is being done for the limited safe parking zones that we have be able to provide sanitary facilities, social services, and case management to help connect people on a daily basis and encourage them to keep us with their life plan to get themselves out of homelessness. Again, it is intermediate in nature. I think there are some pilot programs in Seattle and Hawaii and other localities that are testing these models and I am very encouraged to learn more about those and see if it is right for the San Diego environment as well.

Reporter: Habitat assessment on how these proposals may cost the city's?

These are questions we are looking forward to getting more information back on the September meeting of the Council select committee on homelessness. Although logistics, the how much, the where, how, who, -- those are things that need more info from the mayor’s office so we can understand what is possible.

Reporter: I know that the committee says it will move in September. I think San Diego and have heard the city wanted to move forward on that issue of homelessness for quite some time. What is the level of urgency that you feel is coming from the new select committee and the city Council itself?

I think the level of urgency is strong, and I think we recognize that we needed to get going yesterday. We are trying to stay coordinated with the work being done regionally with the original task force on the homeless. We are very encouraged by the efforts of the county has put up and we want to work in concert with them to make sure that a coordinated effort will be most effective with the limited public resources that we have. And I think that the tenor and the interest from my colleagues in the mayor that everybody is certainly at the table and treating this as San Diego's number one priority this year.

Reporter: I've been speaking with San Diego city councilmember Chris Ward. Thank you so much.

Thank you.