Newsom, Gloria announce outreach program for unsheltered individuals near highways
Speaker 1: (00:00)
The most concentrated pockets of San Diego's growing homeless population can be found closer to downtown along the cities, crowded neighborhood streets, the full scope of the issue. However, extends far beyond the city's urban core, a recent initiative put forth by the governor, the city of San Diego and the state department of transportation aims to help homeless individuals camped along the area's highways. The outreach program is a clear indication of just how widespread the issue of homelessness has become across the state. Joining me to discuss the effort is Hafsa Keiko head of the San Diego's homelessness strategies and solutions department. Also welcome back to the
Speaker 2: (00:37)
Program. Thank you. Pleasure is mine.
Speaker 1: (00:40)
So let's begin with where this program is aimed. Why are unsheltered people taking refuge along state highways and freeways?
Speaker 2: (00:48)
We know that person's experiencing homelessness. We have a large population that are unsheltered, and they're taking refuge in not only these areas under highways, but all throughout the city. We know that this particular initiative really targets the safety issue and the public health issue. And what's really exciting about this particular initiative is that it's the first of its kind with this new department that mayor Gloria has set and has empowered. So with the governor's initiatives and funding coming down the pipeline, we find this to be a great initiative in partnership with Caltrans, where we can really collectively create an impact to address the unsheltered population in these highway areas.
Speaker 1: (01:30)
So what's different about this program that hasn't already been done with regards to the city's previous efforts to alleviate homelessness?
Speaker 2: (01:37)
Well, there's a couple of things. First and foremost, we are leading from my people centered compassionate approach. This is very important, and this is a priority that mayor Gloria has made it in this administration. And quite frankly, this is the reason why I am here and honor to be part of this new team here in the city of San Diego. We're leading from a place of compassion and people centered approach. And that means that we're putting outreach at the forefront and not just any outreach, but people centered outreach from an agency that has been doing the work throughout Southern California. We are also utilizing the capacity needed. We know very well that there is not enough providers within this city. And so by bringing city net to have this initiative with Cal trans in partnership with the city is really setting up a program to expand the service space. And then lastly, we know, as I mentioned earlier, that governor Newsome with a California comeback plan has allocated several funding and resources. And we know that with this partnership, we could elevate the work with the current funding and go ahead and create regional partnerships and strengthen our expansion to address homeless services.
Speaker 1: (02:50)
Exactly what kind of outreach or resources would this program offer.
Speaker 2: (02:54)
So city net will offer resources first and foremost engagement, establishing rapport with persons experiencing homelessness. It's that people-centered approach. We know that city net does have social workers on site that could really make that connection with the person to help them receive the services. Some of the services could be obviously shelter, making sure that housing first is at the forefront of this initiative, offering supportive services, connections to the mental health system, to the medical health system, even substance abuse programs and services offering specific family reunification, if persons need to be connected back to their family and then of course transportation to and from the shelter, and then also additional services that are really necessary to help persons get into the path of self-sufficiency such as offering a case management for employment services and for getting connected to essential documents like your DMV or your ID, really helping to empower people to get on the path of self-sufficiency and be housed.
Speaker 1: (04:00)
What are some of the unique dangers and risks to people living in freeway in Canada?
Speaker 2: (04:05)
I think if just by optics, you can see, you know, it's, uh, it's an area where there's high traffic cars are going and speeding by. We want to make sure that with our partnership, with Caltrans, that person's experiencing homelessness have access to necessary resources, including food health. And as you know, one of the things most recently in the past, there was hepatitis a, there was also a COVID that was a public health crisis. And most recently there's the Shigella outbreak. And so it's really important that person's experiencing homelessness have access to healthcare and essential resources. And some of the persons experiencing homelessness may even have declining health, um, which may not be very optical in front of the highways, but when we're actually creating outreach to go down and deep into those areas, we're able to engage with those persons.
Speaker 1: (04:58)
And what are some of the challenges in providing outreach to those living in freeway encampments, as opposed to those in more urban areas,
Speaker 2: (05:05)
There could be encampments that are headed. There can be encampments that are between shrubs. There could be encampments that are under overpasses and you have to be very strategic at what times you're able to go ahead and do the outreach and, and obviously the cleanup, the dangers are there, you know, it's the speeding and the highways. And so it's really important to be able to have a geographic coordinated effort. So sitting at, in Caltrans, we'll be working together on a schedule of services and in tandem. So that there's an outreach at the first and foremost. And then the cleanup will
Speaker 1: (05:38)
Groups previously involved in addressing the city's unsheltered issue, take part in this program.
Speaker 2: (05:43)
Absolutely. We are using our system of care. And so seeing that being an outreach provider, we'll be going out and doing the outreach services with all of the supportive services I mentioned earlier, but really be connecting back to our local system of care with the San Diego housing commission, our homelessness response center. And of course, working with partners like father Joe's alpha and path as well in helping persons accept shelter in additional resources towards the path of permanent housing. And
Speaker 1: (06:11)
Some people might not assume that a state's transportation department would take part in efforts to help areas of homelessness. How exactly will Caltrans be involved in this effort
Speaker 2: (06:22)
At the table and working to identify specific areas where we find these encampments that might be a potential unsafe areas. Also making sure that the cleanup and this and those in the storage is provided. So it's really important that we work together with Caltrans to help with the cleanup afterwards, as you know, these encampments, obviously these are people's homes and we recognize that their homes, but we want to make sure that we offer them safe homes and homes that can help them get into permanent housing. That is more stable
Speaker 1: (06:54)
Caltrans recently changed its policy of clearing only high priority encampments during the pandemic. Can you explain what makes an encampment high priority? And do we see a lot of these along our freeways
Speaker 2: (07:06)
High priority encampments, all those that could be danger to a person who is out there or to just the general community. I'm not necessarily aware of the detailed nuances, but there could be electrical wires. There could be places that you could fall into and ditch those. There could even be potential fliers if it's, if it's, if it's for warming that could create, um, additional cycles. So it's really important that these areas are looked at that. They're not that we don't remain complacent about it, that we're being proactive and mirror Gloria. Along with this partnership with the California cutback plan with governor Newsome, we're making sure we're strategically allocating our resources to be able to not only address homelessness, but ensure that the highways are safe. Okay.
Speaker 1: (07:50)
I've been speaking with HOFSA Keiko, head of San Diego's homelessness strategies and solutions department. I've said thank you so much for joining us today.
Speaker 2: (07:58)
It's my pleasure. Thank you.
San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria, Gov. Gavin Newsom and Caltrans officials announced a collaborative outreach program Monday intended to support residents living in dangerous conditions adjacent to state highways.
"I don't think homelessness can be solved, I know it can be solved," Newsom said. "The state has provided unprecedented financial resources and opportunities to local governments to address street homelessness, but it takes local leaders like Mayor Gloria to turn this into action.
"Our vision on homelessness must be realized at the local level, and I hope this partnership becomes a template for other cities and counties around California to address encampments along our streets and highways," Newsom said.
San Diego's Homelessness Strategies and Solutions Department will contract directly with City Net— a nonprofit homelessness-services organization started in Long Beach in 2005 that has programs in Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside and Santa Barbara counties — to provide focused street outreach.
"We know there has been a proliferation of homeless encampments along our state highways, which is a particularly dangerous place for them to be," Gloria said. "Ensuring we are able to reach them and offer services is critical.
"This first-of-its-kind collaboration with Caltrans and a new partner, City Net, harnesses the opportunities provided by Governor Newsom's California Comeback Plan, creating yet another way for us to implement our compassionate approach to keeping people safe and ending homelessness one person at a time," Gloria said.
The city's partnership with Caltrans and its contract with City Net are the first agreement in the state to provide dedicated outreach at encampments in the Caltrans right-of-way since Newsom announced $22 billion in investments to local governments intended to address homelessness and the lack of affordable housing as part of his California Comeback Plan.
"This partnership with the city of San Diego allows us to continue addressing encampments on the highway and ensure individuals sheltering in unsafe conditions are provided the necessary services and support to move them into stable living situations," said Caltrans District 11 Director Gustavo Dallarda.
Under its contract with the Homelessness Strategies and Solutions Department, City Net is slated to deploy three outreach teams to work with the San Diego Housing Commission and its network of providers on shelter placements and wraparound supportive services, including transportation, case management and emergency mental-health support. The contract spans from October 2021 through June 2022.