Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
Watch Live

KPBS Midday Edition

Lofty Plans To House San Diego’s Homeless Gaining Traction, Officials Say

Lofty Plans To House San Diego’s Homeless Gaining Traction, Officials Say
Lofty Plans To House San Diego’s Homeless Gaining Tracking, Officials Say GUESTS: Richard Gentry, president/CEO, San Diego Housing Commission David Estrella, director of integrative services, Health and Human Services Agency, San Diego County

Finding housing for the homeless in San Diego is a challenge. To initiatives that help to address the problem are the city of San Diego offered to house 1000 homeless veterans by next year. A County effort to help house people living on the streets with severe mental illness. Joining me is Richard Gentry President and CEO of the San Diego housing commission. David Estrella is also here. Richard, it's been five months since the city rolled out the housing our heroes program to house homeless veterans by March of next year. Have you been able to find rental units and landlords willing to work with you? We absolutely have. I can give you numbers as of today, we have helped 243 veterans secure housing since March 1 with this program. There are another 192 veteran searching for housing with approvals in their pockets. That's 435 out of the thousand that of are been approved and they are either housed around their way. We feel very good about the program itself. We've had a remarkable response from the land lord community. That's due to the outreach efforts on the housing -- "Housing our Heroes" program by Mayor Faulconer who took this as a personal goal of his . Thus far we are having a good turnout of landlords and we been able to house everybody who's been looking. Richard, how does the program work? We work with service providers. People like path, people assisting the homeless downtown, fathered Joe's, the Alpha Project, physical community service, service providers to give us our referrals. We've promised the landlords that we would not bring social problems to them and expect them as landlords to address social issues. We have made sure the veterans who we give the voucher to or whole we hope find rapid rehousing resources, they already have services that can help them out with some of their non-housing related issues. David, the counties project -- "Project One For All" according to the 2016 point in time homeless count 14% of homeless individuals report having a mental illness. That's more than 1000 people. How do you find housing for that population? It can be challenging. This is very much a region wide effort. We are hoping to leverage some of the resources and connections and partnerships that are existing through the housing commissions programs and through our own veteran outreach program. Is this the first time the county is working with the "Housing First" model? We've been part of the continuum of care Council and this is a concerted effort as "Housing First" to provide outreach treatment and housing through our "Housing First" model. What kind of support is available after housing? The way "Project One For All" , the idea is that an individual can be identified through street outreach and receive case management services and specifically, treatment for their situation or mental illness. That's provided through a full service partnership. Those are providers that are throughout the region and they identify the individual, provide the service and provide a referral to a resource for housing. What kind of challenges has the housing our heroes program run into so far? We thought the biggest challenge would be finding landlords willing to participate. We have been surprised in a good way, the landlords have turned out. Many of whom are veterans themselves and stepped up to the plate. The challenge is this program goes forward, will be making sure we provide a good match of residents with landlords and making sure those residents have services from other providers to keep the family from becoming homeless all over again. Earlier this summer we spoke with veteran Jeffrey Taft he said he's been on the street since last September. He received a voucher what was still having a hard time. I call, I knock on doors, anything I hear that's available I go over and tried to contact. I don't ask for much. I'm 61 years old. I'm tired of the games. I don't drink. Jeffrey Taft has a voucher, he's been looking for a place to live he has a dog and he can't find one. Richard, do you have a lot of people like that? There are some. The voucher program is a program where we help people in the private marketplace. It's not our intent to protect people but to help them make a marketplace work for them. In our homeless voucher programs and all the other voucher programs, the housing commission is administering between 15,000 and 16,000 vouchers within San Diego. Prices are going up, sometimes it is difficult to find a place. Most of our customers have been able to find a place. Do you think the effort to house the homeless could be better addressed if efforts around the County were coordinated? I know you say you are working with housing our heroes, if there weren't so many separate programs, do you think we would target in on solving this problem more easily? We have on a regional basis is the continuum of care process which coordinates the different programs we have available. There are various subpopulations with different and specific needs. The funding streams available to us are designed to address the specific needs. A coordinated approach makes sense, we need to recognize the variety of needs that people have, whether they be veterans, individuals with mental illness, transitional youth, women and children, refugees, there are so many specific needs that need to be addressed and that's why you have those funding streams. I want to ask you both, in recent years there been efforts with the aim of ending homelessness. Richard, do you think that's realistic? I think it's a noble goal it's a worthy goal, if you pause it your goal. Saying that we are going to end an issue, that's been here for a long time and could exist under a lot of different situations. That's something I would choose to do, I would rather say that we are going to get 1000 veterans off the street in the year which we are doing. I would set short term, midterm and long-term goals. Assess progress and determine how we need to adjust to new realities considering what we have in front of us is homelessness for individuals with serious mental illness resulting from many factors. We will determine that process as we move along. I've been speaking with David Estrella director of integrative services with the County's Health and Human Services agency and Richard Gentry President and CEO of the San Diego housing commission. Thank you both very much.

Finding housing for the homeless in San Diego is a challenge.

Two initiatives, one by the city and another by the county, aim to address the issue.

The city's "Housing Our Heroes" program has housed 243 veterans since it launched earlier this year and 192 are still looking for a place to live, said Richard Gentry, president and CEO of the San Diego Housing Commission.


“We’ve had a remarkable response from the landlord community, and in large part that’s due to the large outreach efforts of the housing our heroes program,” Gentry said.

The program works with service providers, including Father Joe's Villages and the Alpha Project. It also offers financial incentives to participating landlords.

The goal is to house 1,000 homeless veterans by March 2017.

The county’s “Project One For All” is equally ambitious. It aims to house 1,250 homeless individuals with severe mental illness in the next three years.

San Diego area media outlets are teaming up on Aug. 17 to bring a spotlight on homelessness. Organizing media partners include KPBS, Voice of San Diego and San Diego CityBeat.

"That’s provided through full service partnerships. What they do is identify the individual, provide the service and then provide a referral for available housing resource,” said David Estrella, director of integrative services for the county of San Diego's Health and Human Services Agency.


Estrella said 30 individuals have secured housing vouchers through the program and 160 are in the process of doing so.

About 14 percent of the region’s homeless population report having a severe mental illness.

Gentry and Estrella discuss the challenges around housing the homeless on KPBS Midday Edition on Wednesday.