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New Outreach Coordinator To Bring One-On-One Support To Mid City Homeless

Susan Davis sits on layers of cardboard on a sidewalk in the City Heights nei...

Photo by The AjA Project

Above: Susan Davis sits on layers of cardboard on a sidewalk in the City Heights neighborhood of San Diego in 2014.

A new homeless outreach coordinator is walking the streets in two city of San Diego neighborhoods to personally help the area's unsheltered population. Elected officials and nonprofit organizations pooled funding and resources to create the new position and help homeless individuals in North Park and City Heights overcome barriers to housing.

Laura Ann Fernea, executive director of City Heights Community Development Corporation, which is part of the collaborative behind the effort, said the coordinator seeks out homeless individuals in the two communities to provide direct assistance.

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"The specific kind of job this person is doing is basically finding out what does this person who's homeless need in order to not be homeless," Fernea said in a phone interview.

That includes traveling with them to access services. For example, Fernea said the coordinator accompanied a person on Thursday to the Department of Motor Vehicles so they could get an ID required to receive social security payments.

The North Park and City Heights homeless outreach coordinator is a pilot program set to last one year pending the results of an impact study, Fernea said.

"The group will not be funding this again unless it shows clear evidence that this works," she said.

Members of the collaborative include Price Philanthropies, City Heights Business Association, North Park Main Street and the offices of City Councilmembers Georgette Gomez and Chris Ward. The project also includes funding from the office of former County Supervisor Ron Roberts, who was termed out in December.

Together they put up $93,000 for the initiative, Fernea said and tapped homeless services provider PATH San Diego to hire a coordinator, who started about a month ago.

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PATH regional director Jonathan Castillo said he expected the new coordinator to successfully assist those living without shelter.

"Through persistent and frequent engagement, we are confident in our ability to engage them in services that will ultimately end their homeless episode," Castillo said according to a news release issued after a Thursday event announcing the new coordinator.

The Regional Task Force on the Homeless is also supporting the effort. Chief Executive Officer Tamera Kohler said the group hoped to see additional outreach coordinators elsewhere in San Diego, according to the news release.

Groups in two San Diego neighborhoods teamed up to create a new role that assists people living on the area's streets.

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Editor's Note: Price Philanthropies, which provides funding for the coordinator position, is also a supporter of KPBS.

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