Newly formed outreach team seeks to end homelessness in North County
An estimated 1,500 people call the streets of North San Diego County home.
On Monday, San Diego County and Escondido City officials and local homeless advocates announced a newly formed outreach team to change those numbers.
Barbara Jimenez, the county's community operations officer said the team will reduce homelessness one interaction at a time.
"They engage customers and over time build trust to access the needs and build person center and trauma focus intervention," she said. "They will provide outreach, engagement, street case management assessment and connection to services and housing opportunities."
County Supervisor Terra Lawson-Remer said one of the reasons homelessness has been a challenge in the region is because the eight cities that makeup North County all have different plans — and those plans are also different from the county’s plan.
"But starting today for the first time we are coordinating outreach across city and county lines so we can get people help and housing faster than ever before," she said.
The team is made up of social workers, case managers and human services specialists.
Building relationships with people who need the help is vital to permanently getting people off of the streets, Interfaith Community Services CEO Greg Anglea said.
"A lot of individuals who are on our streets in North County are struggling with major mental health issues and co-occurring substance abuse use disorders," he said, adding that it takes time to connect people to services. "Access to programs to help people overcome those issues is very challenging and so it takes weeks often even months to get somebody into treatment that’s why we need outreach workers who are mental health specialists who can build trusting relationships with those individuals to help them navigate to those resources that they need."
Lawson-Remer says the cost of this team is not known yet because it is a pilot program, but what she does know is that right now law enforcement is being used to deal with the issue and it's not only more costly but it's not working.
"It costs $83,000 a year to put someone in jail versus $33,000 to get someone into housing and treatment," she said. "So it’s almost three times more expensive to put someone in jail rather than for them to get the services that they need, so it’s from a fiscal point of view frankly completely insane that we’ve been sending trained law enforcement out and putting folks in jail instead of getting people the services that they need which is both more effective and significantly more effective."
This is only the beginning. The pilot program will be expanded. The next outreach team will be deployed in Oceanside in January.