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City Announces New Approach To Homeless Outreach

 An outreach worker from PATH helps an unsheltered person in 2019.
An outreach worker from PATH helps an unsheltered person in 2019.

For years, San Diego has relied on different service providers to reach out to its homeless population — some focusing on veterans, others on youth and others on seniors.

Now, San Diego will move to coordinate all its efforts through the People Assisting the Homeless (PATH) program, sending out a coordinated team of caseworkers assigned to different neighborhoods, to build rapport and trust with the homeless community.

City Announces New Approach To Homeless Outreach
Listen to this story by Max Rivlin-Nadler.

In a press conference in Ocean Beach on Wednesday morning, Mayor Todd Gloria said these caseworkers would be empowered with the ability to connect the homeless with the help they need, that day.


“With this new coordinated outreach program, we’re acknowledging that we need to provide a whole toolbox of options to the people who interact with our homeless,” Gloria said.

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The new PATH outreach teams, made possible by City Council funds allocated last summer, will send 12 outreach specialists into communities across the city. The teams will provide help to those who have been living on the street long-term and those newly experiencing a crisis.

“They will help them overcome the unique challenges, whether it’s drug or alcohol addiction, mental illness, physical health problems or other legal entanglements. We call it 'person-centered, neighborhood-based, trauma-informed, housing focused approach,'” said Gloria.

The mayor claimed that the plan isn’t all just “jargon,” but a substantial change in how the city has been dealing with a crisis that city-led programs have not been able to alleviate for over a decade.

Video: City Announces New Approach To Homeless Outreach

Many of those efforts centered around law enforcement, who would conduct ticketing and homeless sweeps of those without shelter. Gloria says the city will now lead with a “housing first” model that has worked in other cities across the world, connecting people with immediate services.

“We do not believe that people don’t want services and choose to be homeless. We just need to figure out the right approach,” said Jonathan Castillo, the chief regional officer of PATH.

The city is in the middle of a three year action plan for homelessness, which aims to end all youth homelessness, all veteran homelessness, and to cut the rest of the city’s unsheltered population in half, within three years.