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San Diego County wants to expand homeless services to cities throughout the region

San Diego County officials say they’re ready to help create more homeless shelters across the region. KPBS health reporter Matt Hoffman says it’s up to local cities to join the program.

San Diego County Chairman of Supervisors Nathan Fletcher has a proposal for city leaders countywide: You provide the shelter space and the county will offer onsite mental health services and public benefits assistance.

"We’re just trying to make it as easily as possible to get things quickly moving," Fletcher said Monday after a meeting with city officials from across the region.

The county offers similar homeless services at existing city of San Diego shelters, but due to the growing need, officials want it to be a regional service.

"For far too long everyone has said 'hey we have to deal with homelessness,' until it actually comes to sighting a facility. Then people get awfully squeamish," Fletcher said. "The reality is we can’t do that. That can't be the way we go as a region ... we've got to be willing to address the situation we face on the streets."

Members of the Board of Supervisors are also voting on May 24 to allocate $10 million in start-up money to help cities launch their own shelter programs.

"My great hope is that we have way more proposals that we can move quickly ... than we have funds available," Fletcher said.

County officials said they want to move quickly and fund proposals that are ready to get people off the streets within months, not years. Fletcher said a number of cities have plans in the works.

"National City, Oceanside, Carlsbad these are cities that are — Chula Vista — moving forward with shelter plans," he said. "The reality is we need all of them (county cities) to do be doing that."

Next week, the annual homeless count data will be released. Tamera Kohler, who leads the Regional Task Force on Homelessness, said up to 90% of unsheltered people are from the city in which they are living on the streets.

"And they want to stay close to home," Kohler said. "So this is why it’s so important to site these in each of our smaller communities — that’s where they last were housed and it’s where we have the greatest chance to house them again."

Proposals can include shelters or even safe parking or camping grounds. Cities will still have to invest their own money to, for example, run or contract out day-to day-shelter operations. That includes intake services and providing food, security and showers.

Corrected: May 10, 2022 at 11:29 AM PDT
This story has been updated to reflect that the San Diego Board of Supervisors is voting May 24 on a $10 million dollar funding proposal, not next week. KPBS regrets the error.