According to the Regional Task Force on Homelessness January 2020 Point-In-Time Count, San Diego County had an estimated 7,658 people experiencing homelessness living on the streets or in shelters on any given night. By the end of 2020, over 38,000 individuals had received some form of housing and services, a stark contrast to the estimated population count. Partners have come together to provide a range of services from prevention and diversion, shelter, and permanent housing resources, including rental assistance and supportive services. Having access to housing is a crucial step in increasing quality of life as it allows for increased health, safety, stability, and access to community supports. Efforts to prevent and divert people from homelessness are also key to stabilizing people at risk of homelessness across the region.
Government and Community Collaboration
Collaboration between cities and government agencies and local nonprofits has been crucial in working towards a solution to end homelessness in the region.
The San Diego Continuum of Care is a county-wide collaboration that brings together stakeholders who have a common goal to end homelessness and develop and implement a regional plan to achieve this goal. The Regional Task Force on Homelessness serves as the lead agency for the San Diego Continuum of Care which includes federal, state, and local elected officials, cities and government agencies, homeless services providers, faith-based organizations, law enforcement, healthcare partners, the education sector, philanthropy, business partners, persons with lived experience, advocates, and others.
The County of San Diego took action to address the increasing impact of homelessness across our County by establishing the Department of Homeless Solutions and Equitable Communities. The department coordinates existing and new County homeless and equitable community efforts and serves as a central point of collaboration for partners to ensure equity among all San Diego County residents. The new Office of Homeless Solutions will engage in upstream efforts to prevent at-risk residents from becoming homeless and to reduce homelessness in the region. In addition, the County of San Diego’s Emergency Rental Assistance Program (as of August 5, 2021) received 16,899 applications and disbursed payments to 8,113 qualifying households to assist renters and landlords with utility and rent payments.
Recently, cities across the region have developed homeless action plans to help residents in need, including the City of Encinitas, City of Escondido, City of La Mesa, and City of Oceanside. The City of Carlsbad created a comprehensive package of initiatives to achieve its goal of reducing homelessness by 50% in five years, including a new Housing & Homeless Services Department. The City of Santee released its 2021-29 housing element plan, which includes developing monitoring procedures for fair housing outreach efforts in the community, assisting in providing more affordable housing, and promoting fair and equal housing opportunities. The City of Chula Vista offers access to 31 different affordable rental complexes to qualifying low-income families, helping families obtain and remain in stable housing. The City of San Diego and the San Diego Housing Commission have developed a 10-year Community Action Plan on Homelessness that builds on recent progress, lays out short-term achievable goals, and offers guidance for addressing homelessness in the long term.
In North County, the Alliance for Regional Solutions involves over 65 regional partners, including the County of San Diego; City of Carlsbad, City of Encinitas, City of Escondido, City of Oceanside, City of Solana Beach, City of San Marcos; and SANDAG, to work toward short term and permanent housing solutions. In East County, the East County Homeless Task Force, led by the San Diego East County Chamber of Commerce, promotes collaboration between public, private, and non-profit sectors and developed an action plan for addressing homelessness in East County communities.
Increased Efforts During COVID-19
In 2020, San Diego County’s homeless service providers had to pivot quickly to protect the safety of those experiencing homelessness. Rather than leaving service providers to tackle the response individually, the County of San Diego coordinated a collaborative response through the Emergency Operations Center - Homeless Sector to ensure residents continued to receive the services and support they needed. Thankfully, dedicated, and driven organizations were ready to work tirelessly to provide that support, each bringing their organizations strengths to the table.
Operation Shelter to Home
Operation Shelter to Home was the result of cross-sector collaboration that resulted in a multi-agency response to the coronavirus pandemic that brought people experiencing homelessness and homeless service providers to the San Diego Convention Center. Governments and community organizations worked together to provide meals, showers, bathrooms, laundry services, case managers, housing assistance, and medical and behavioral health services to upwards of 1,300 individuals. As part of this response, UPLIFT delivered over 600 clothing requests in partnership with Rock Church Thrift Store and provided transportation to the California Department of Motor Vehicles for California ID cards for over 400 Clients. National Conflict Resolution Center provided much-needed Conflict Coaching services to people living at the convention center and empowered them with a series of communication and conflict resolution strategies to help them resolve ongoing disputes.
Partners Providing Services
PATH (People Assisting the Homeless) coordinated an outreach program that brought together dozens of nonprofit agencies for one on one outreach to those living on the streets. This resulted in 2,095 interactions, 476 people placed into shelters, and 336 enrolled in case management. Us4Warriors hosted the 33rd Annual Stand Down event which supplied key resources and services to help hundreds of homeless veterans get a "hand up" in support for a better tomorrow.
Providing Housing Opportunities
The availability of transitional and long-term affordable housing in a community can go a long way in addressing homelessness. Many families and individuals lose housing when they are unable to afford rent increases or have financial setbacks that result in having to choose between rent or food. No one should have to choose between these basic human necessities. In a region like San Diego, where demand for homes exceeds available housing, partners collaborate to create healthy futures for residents experiencing homelessness.
Tackling the issue of long-term housing, Crisis House’s East County Housing Connection program helped end homelessness for 508 people, including 330 children, and provided services to over 5,000 people. Community HousingWorks broke ground on a 96-unit affordable housing development in Linda Vista that will serve chronically homeless veterans and, with service partner Home Start, transition-age foster youth. San Diego Youth Services provided shelter and transitional housing to 752 youth, helping set them up for success.
Partners also provide a wide variety of housing services for those experiencing housing insecurity or homelessness. The San Diego LGBT Community Center offers free transitional housing, permanent affordable housing, overnight emergency housing for youth, affordable senior housing, and more. CSA San Diego County works to ensure that all residents have the same opportunities for housing by eliminating discriminatory practices and held their first annual symposium which drew community partners from the health, economic, and social justice sectors to address the relationship between fair housing and opportunities for healthy lives, economic advancement, and justice.
The County of San Diego spent nearly $12 million last fiscal year on affordable housing, homelessness issues, community infrastructure, and housing or services for people living with HIV/AIDS. They are helping to create almost 1,400 affordable housing units in 20 developments across 15 communities in the region. The County is also partnering with the City of San Marcos and National Community Renaissance, also known as National CORE, to transform an aging affordable housing complex in San Marcos, upgrading 148 apartment homes.
To address homelessness, Partners have come together to provide a range of services from prevention and diversion, shelter, and permanent housing resources, including rental assistance and supportive services. Over the past year, we have seen homeless action plans put into place, increased services and outreach efforts, and the formation of new government departments to focus primarily on housing and homelessness solutions. As we look to the future, the County of San Diego's Framework for Ending Homelessness will align all regional stakeholders to common goals and strategies and provide guidance into the future.