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City Council Approves Street Outreach Program To Assist San Diego’s Homeless

Homeless people stand among their items along 17th Street in San Diego, Sept....

Credit: Associated Press

Above: Homeless people stand among their items along 17th Street in San Diego, Sept. 19, 2017.

The San Diego City Council approved a new program Tuesday intended to help the city reach out to people experiencing homelessness by connecting them to services and housing resources.

The Coordinated Street Outreach Program is intended to address gaps in the existing system while leveraging and enhancing outreach resources citywide, building upon a pilot program that started in the Mid-City area. It will officially begin Nov. 1.

"Today, the City Council took a big step forward in how we create meaningful relationships with residents living on the streets and connect them with permanent homes and the services they need to stay housed," Council President Georgette Gómez said. "We've seen from our pilot project in Mid-City that this model — using case managers rather than police officers to establish trust with vulnerable residents — really works."

Mayor Kevin Faulconer and the council agreed earlier this year to set aside $1.5 million from the city's Homeless Strategies Department General Fund budget to support the new outreach program.

The program will use a neighborhood-based approach, including a tailored response based on the needs and demographics of the community's unsheltered population. This approach also includes proactive contacts with local residents, business owners and civic organizations.

"San Diego's Neighborhood Policing Division has done a phenomenal job in recent years to fill the gap in connecting with San Diegans living in unsafe, unsanitary conditions on our streets and getting them the help they need," Faulconer said. "But we've always recognized the need for more non-law enforcement outreach teams."

The San Diego Housing Commission will contract with People Assisting the Homeless San Diego to operate the program. SDHC will also hire an outreach coordinator to provide direction and support to the program.

"As policymakers, we must think 'people-first' as we address gaps in the existing system and deploy outreach resources in alignment with the goals of the city's Community Action Plan on Homelessness," Councilwoman Monica Montgomery Steppe said.

The program will consist of two main service elements: a Rapid Response Team and a Mobile Homelessness Response Team. The Rapid Response Team will focus in areas with known concentrations of individuals experiencing unsheltered homelessness and provide immediate intervention and problem-solving resources.

The Mobile Homelessness Response Team will provide street-based case management, prioritizing interactions with vulnerable individuals. This team will also work to identify individuals who may already be connected to a housing resource and are on a localized list developed in collaboration with the Regional Task Force on the Homeless. This team's efforts are intended to help individuals address any barriers to getting housing, such as obtaining identification, accessing primary care and seeking employment resources.

"Our Mid-City Outreach Pilot Program has proven that outreach that focuses on relationship building, trust, and community involvement yields the best outcomes for people experiencing homelessness," said Councilman Chris Ward, past chair of the Regional Task Force on the Homeless. "PATH San Diego's client-focused, service-centered approach to outreach has worked in other parts of our region and will best serve the unique needs of all San Diego's neighborhoods."

The program will operate seven days a week, except for city-observed holidays. The program will run from Nov. 1 through June 30, 2021, and SDHC will have the option to renew the program with PATH for another year.

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