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County, homeless service providers ramping up staffing for outreach workers

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Roland Lizarondo/KPBS
An unsheltered resident speak with a PATH homeless outreach worker and San Diego County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher in Pacific Beach, Dec. 16, 2021.

Homelessness is not just in the city of San Diego. Other communities are grappling with how to house the unsheltered, and the county is stepping in to help.

People Assisting the Homeless, or PATH, was given funding to hire 20 outreach workers. Teams will be dispatched countywide including in the north, central, east and south regions, with the largest numbers working in the east county.

"What you see on the streets everyday requires us all to do things we haven’t done before," said San Diego County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher who helped secure the funding. "And our county government hasn’t investing enough and been proactive, but that’s changing."


Fletcher said outreach workers are one piece, there also needs to be places for people to go once they are ready.

"We need more permanent supportive housing, long-term placements for folks and then we’re going to need shelters — kind of that bridge, that interim step," Fletcher said.

Fletcher went out Thursday with PATH outreach teams funded by the city of San Diego to see how they work with clients.

"We try to support people where they’re at and from there help them get into housing," said Brian Gruters, associate director of outreach for PATH.

County, homeless service providers ramping up staffing for outreach workers

Gruters said many people they contact outside of San Diego's downtown are not necessarily seeking to be sheltered there. He said in addition to housing, teams can also help the unsheltered find employment.

"You need a job? Let me call someone who can get you a job," Gruters said describing how they helped a man in Pacific Beach. "And then once we do that we’re going to take him to apply for the job, then after that we’re going to take him out and buy him a vest and a hard hat so he can do the job. Then when all that’s done we’re going to try and connect him to a place that he can afford to stay."

Gruters said the San Diego Regional Task Force on the Homeless can assist with money for deposits and job placements. PATH has filled some of the county-funded outreach positions, but are still looking to fill more positions.

"The key is that you’re good at talking to people and you have a heart for helping people get inside," Gruters said