Report: San Diego Needs $1.9B For Permanent Solutions To Homelessness
Friday, October 11, 2019
Photo by Gregory Bull/AP
San Diego needs $1.9 billion over the next decade to meaningfully address homelessness, according to a long-awaited report due to be discussed by the City Council on Monday.
The report, prepared by the nonprofit Corporation for Supportive Housing, recommends hundreds of new shelter beds to get people off the streets quickly and thousands of new "permanent supportive housing" units, which come with subsidized rents and social services available to residents.
Keely Halsey, Mayor Kevin Faulconer's chief of homelessness strategies, said it is a long-term plan and will withstand the political changes that come with new city administrations. Faulconer is termed out and city voters will elect a new mayor next year.
"It's not a glossy PR piece that's meant to make everybody feel better," said. "This is a plan that is an instruction sheet for this administration and following administrations to carry out."
Community Action Plan on Homelessness
San Diego's strategic plan to address homelessness says the city needs billions of dollars for permanent supportive housing.
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The $1.9 billion figure comprises about $963 million in one-time costs to develop new affordable housing over the plan's 10-year timeline and about $976 million in ongoing costs such as rental subsidies and social services. The figure does not include costs associated with additional "crisis response" options such as new homeless shelters or facilities where homeless people can recover after medical care.
Those crisis response options would cost roughly $2.1 million per year, said to Lisa Jones, senior vice president of homeless housing innovations at the San Diego Housing Commission.
"That really is the idea of standing those shelter beds up early in the process, and then scaling them down over time as permanent solutions come online," Jones said.
The report offers some criticism of the city's homelessness programs. It says "Housing First" — the principle that homeless individuals should be given housing before addressing underlying issues like mental illness or addiction — has been applied inconsistently.
But the report largely validates Faulconer's push for programs that provide more immediate relief to the city's unsheltered population, such as the three "bridge shelters" erected after the city's Hepatitis A outbreak. Critics have questioned the long-term viability of those shelters, which still lack a permanent funding source and have been paid for with funds that might have otherwise gone to more permanent solutions.
Nevertheless, those less permanent solutions to homelessness still need to be a part of the city's response to the crisis, the report concludes.
"To be clear, Housing First does not mean housing only," the report says.
The report acknowledges the city cannot meet the goals of the plan without a massive infusion of new money — likely from a mix of local tax measures and state and federal funding.
Two ballot measures are making their way toward city voters next year that could help fund the homelessness plan's recommendations. The first, a citizens initiative to increase the city's hotel room tax, would provide about $147 million to city homeless programs in its first five years, according to the campaign backing the measure.
The second ballot measure, which would be sponsored by the city and has not yet officially been placed on the ballot, would provide about $900 million for new affordable housing through a property tax increase. Its main proponent, the nonprofit San Diego Housing Federation, says those funds would help attract more state and federal matching dollars.
Both tax measures are expected to need support from two-thirds of city voters to pass. Jones said the homelessness plan can help reassure taxpayers that their money will be spent wisely.
"When we go with an ask now, we actually have the numbers that back up what it is that we'll be asking for and where the funds will be spent, and what it will achieve," she said.
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