Leader Of San Diego's New Department On Addressing Homelessness Is On The Job
The effort to address the hundreds of people living unsheltered on the streets of San Diego has been a chronic problem for the region. And now, a new city official is in charge of finding solutions. Monday was Hafsa Kaka's first day in her new role as the head of the city’s Homelessness Strategies and Solutions Department. She comes to San Diego after working on homeless issues in several California cities, including Riverside and Los Angeles.
Mayor Todd Gloria created the new department earlier this year and appointed Kaka to lead it after a nationwide search.
KPBS Midday Edition spoke with Gloria and Kaka on Wednesday about where the city is at with its current efforts and what they plan to do to help get more unsheltered people off the streets.
The first phase of a joint city/county homeless outreach program wrapped up at the end of July. It helped hundreds living on the streets of downtown San Diego into shelters. Although many were helped through the effort, more than 1,000 people are still living on downtown's streets, the San Diego Union-Tribune reports.
"It was only a month of focused outreach in one zip code in our city, but in that short period of time, we were able to transition over 470 San Diegans from the streets into housing," Gloria said. "If that's what is able to be done over a short period of time in just one corner of our community, think about what we can do on a citywide or regionwide basis with similar effort. That's precisely why we stood up an independent department of Homelessness Strategies and Solutions, and why we've recruited someone of Hafsa's caliber to help lead that effort."
Kaka said the department she is now heading will hire people to "help execute programs and services from a best practices perspective. And these best practices include housing first, harm reduction, motivational interviewing, the social work, key skills needed to be able to engage persons experiencing homelessness."
She said she will also be working with the county and community agencies on how the issue of homelessness is being addressed across the San Diego County region.
She said going forward the department will be "working and building upon a community action plan," adding shelters and "enhancing outreach."