Coordinated Street Outreach Program Will Help Homeless San Diegans
KPBS Midday Edition Segments / November 5, 2020
The city of San Diego plans to build on a successful pilot program for homeless San Diegans that connects people with permanent housing.
Speaker 1: 00:00 A pilot project to replace police intervention with social workers to help San Diego's homeless population has been called a success. So last week, the San Diego city council officially approved the coordinated street outreach program. The aim is for caseworkers to establish relationships with unsheltered people, direct them to needed services and eventually find many homeless residents, a permanent place to live. Joining me is hand-on scrapper. She's regional director of the San Diego office of people assisting the homeless or path. And hand-on welcome to the program.
Speaker 2: 00:35 Thank you so much for having me. How are you
Speaker 1: 00:37 Measuring the success of the pilot program?
Speaker 2: 00:41 So we track our numbers really closely. For example, this past year in our outreach specialists, it started with one outreach specialist and would have a second one. Now we're able to see 219 unique individuals, and we were able to house 59 of those individuals, um, which 22 were permanent homes. It's street to home is something that we've seen to be really successful when we're working with clients and not person centered approach. And that's 41% positive rate that we're seeing as in a street outreach program, which is highly successful. And through our engagement, we've identified 37 individuals who are new to the homeless system, or haven't touched the homeless system and more than two years. So that's been really effective.
Speaker 1: 01:26 Why do you think replacing police with social workers is having such a better outcome?
Speaker 2: 01:31 So we don't see it as replacing, um, the police at all. I think we're seeing it in a way of when you have someone experiencing a mental health crisis and they are out on the street sending our mental health clinicians to be able to respond to those individuals and work with them on deescalating the situation and connecting them to those appropriate resources. We see that to be hugely beneficial to our community.
Speaker 1: 01:57 Now, San Diego city council president Georgette Gomez has expanding this program is a natural extension of the city's new effort to combat homelessness. She spoke at last week city council.
Speaker 2: 02:09 This is a continuation, a shifting how we're responding to this crisis. Um, in terms of we'll be having a more scent people center approach, both by how we're reaching out to them, where we're placing them and how we're supporting them to restore their lives.
Speaker 1: 02:26 And on tell us more about how path operates its outreach program. I read it's divided into two different service elements,
Speaker 2: 02:35 Correct? So we will have a rapid response team, which are going to be equipped with individuals who are able to work seven days a week. We'll have the teams, at least until 10:00 PM. Being able to respond to immediate responses that stakeholders, community members are seeing in their communities and making that linkage and immediate access to shelter is going to be really critical for those who are in accessing a bed for the night or, um, for a little bit of time until they identify other housing options. And then our other team is going to be the mobile homelessness resolution team. They are, uh, very much like our, our traditional outreach specialists, but they will do street-based case management, carrying a caseload of at least 15, where they're working with each of those, each of those individuals and creating a plan, a housing plan that makes sense, and the client identifies to be a priority to them and then carrying them through the system and helping them with system navigation and resource connection. So that's going to be the team breakout. We will also have peer support specialists who are going to be part of the team and working with our clients and connecting with them on that level of lived experience and being able to understand the situation and really just from a humanistic approach of like, what are your needs and, you know, let's, let's make the connection happen
Speaker 1: 03:57 Now with the rapid response team, how are they alerted that someone has an urgent issue and what constitutes an urgent issue?
Speaker 2: 04:06 I think we have spoken about the possibility of using the, get her done app and going through that. And then in other situations they will most likely can call our, um, our team directly, um, and say, Hey, we have this situation. I think emergency will vary, right? Health and safety is, um, an area where we want to look at, make sure people are safe first. Um, and then from there deescalate any situation that might come up, I think in some cases, what we've been seeing is really someone who is sleeping on the side and is a little bit of a danger to themselves because they're not able to fully see the situation in front of them or maybe going through a mental health crisis in that moment that we're able to actually just sit with them and process and talk through and identify how we can get them to the help that they need. So I think the emergency aspect is going to vary and we're going to have to try out what makes sense and what works for the community as well as the team.
Speaker 1: 05:05 Currently, the program operates in North park, in city Heights into what other communities is it going to be expanded?
Speaker 2: 05:12 It's a city funded project. So our goal is to look out throughout San Diego, but we will be working with, um, our council numbers and local districts and identifying we're going to use, uh, uh, you know, our point in time number and census track to identify the hotspots and where do we need to target and focus them, being able to, um, have people specifically, um, located in those neighborhoods and districts to be able to begin building that relationship, we're still working out those details. So I think once we have that, we'll be able to share that
Speaker 1: 05:48 Finally, Anon, what would you say are the biggest challenges to your organization when trying to get people off the streets and into permanent housing?
Speaker 2: 05:59 I think the biggest challenge is, um, access to permanent housing. Um, as many of us know, we have a shortage of affordable permanent housing, not just in San Diego, but, um, California and, um, other States. And so the vacancy rates we are seeing, um, is really, it makes it hard for us to identify those places where our clients can actually call home and that they're in their home for long-term. Um, that's really, our biggest struggle is finding those affordable housing units where our clients can reside in.
Speaker 1: 06:32 I've been speaking with hand-on scrapper, she's regional director of path, San Diego. And hand-on thank you for speaking with us.
Speaker 2: 06:40 Thank you so much for having me.