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San Diego Mayor Joins Call For A $20 Billion Investment To Fight Homelessness

Homeless tents are shown lined up downtown Diego, April 26, 2021.

Photo by Roland Lizarondo

Above: Homeless tents are shown lined up downtown Diego, April 26, 2021.

San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria joined a group of mayors from California’s largest cities Thursday to ask the state for a record-breaking $20 billion investment to fight homelessness.

“We can’t solve this problem in one fiscal year,” Gloria said at the virtual event. “It’s going to take the repeated commitment of federal, state and local leadership to get the job done.”

Listen to this story by Cristina Kim.

The plan calls for California to allocate $4 billion in the state budget every year for the next five years.

California’s homeless population has continued to swell with over 160,000 people experiencing homelessness, according to the most recent point-in-time count in 2020.

That’s likely a conservative number. Service providers across the state reported providing services and interacting with 248,130 individuals in 2020.

Reported by Cristina Kim

A recent report by the Regional Task Force On Homelessness shows that in 2020 the number of people entering homelessness for the first time in San Diego nearly doubled.

Meanwhile, the homelessness crisis continued to be defined by deep racial disparities. Black people are 5.5% of San Diego’s population and yet they account for up to 30% of the homeless population. The city and county have set up a commission to explore this further.

Jonathan Castillo is the chief regional officer at Path, a nonprofit that works with San Diego’s homeless community. He says the mayor’s call for additional state funds is a great first step because existing services need to be scaled up.

“The solutions work, they're effective, but we just need more of it,” Castillo said. “And I think what we're not also looking at is how much does it cost us to not implement these services? What is the cost there?”

The decision to invest in homeless services and homeless prevention makes fiscal sense, according to Castillo, because homeless individuals can put a strain on hospitals, law enforcement and fire departments if they lack the services they need.

Mayor Gloria allocated over $10 million in his proposed budget earlier this month, which includes $6.3 million to add up to 300 new shelter beds and $1 million to expand PATH’s outreach services.

If the mayor’s multibillion plan is approved, the legislature will be responsible for allocating how much each city will receive.

Mayor Gloria already knows that he wants to use any additional money to fund existing programs and known solutions.

“I would like to see us grow the number of permanent supportive housing units in our city, “ Gloria said. “That’s how you solve homelessness, housing plus services.”

He says he’s open to purchasing more extended-stay hotels and converting them to housing, as the city was able to do using more than $30 million of Project Homekey funds in 2020.

Democrats in the Assembly and Senate support the proposal. Governor Gavin Newsom is expected to deliver his revised budget in mid-May with the final budget scheduled to be approved in June.

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Photo of Cristina Kim

Cristina Kim
Racial Justice and Social Equity Reporter

opening quote marksclosing quote marksI cover racial justice and social equity issues – an expansive beat that includes housing, health, criminal justice, and education. I am interested in unpacking how systems reproduce inequalities and highlighting the ways communities of color are pushing for greater equity.

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