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Follow up on the Hillcrest Town Council's homelessness forum held in May

On May 10, 2016, the Hillcrest Town Council (HTC) held a forum to discuss homelessness in the neighborhood. The panel included Officer Ricardo Pinon of the San Diego Police Department, Jennifer Buck of Think Dignity, Brandon Smith of the Alpha Project, Benjamin Nichols of the Hillcrest Business Association, and licensed clinical social worker Karina Vesco.

While the panel provided a forum for the community to hear some of the work being done by various agencies to address the issue, time constraints made it impossible for all participants to get their questions answered. 

Audience members were invited to submit questions in writing, which were sent to Councilmember Todd Gloria's office for follow up. See the questions and responses from Councilmember Gloria's office below.

Q: How and what are the plans to end homelessness. Arresting the homeless is not an answer. We kicked all the mentally ill out in the street and then were wondering why we have the epidemic.

A: Councilmember Gloria serves as Chair of the Regional Continuum of Care Council (RCCC), which is the regional planning body for ending homelessness in San Diego County.  This body is focused on ending family and youth homelessness.  The mission of the Regional Continuum of Care Council (RCCC) is to engage stakeholders in a community-based process that works to (1)  End homelessness for all individuals and families throughout the region (2)  Address the underlying causes of homelessness (3)  Lessen the negative impact of homelessness on individuals, families and communities. More info can be found at www.sandiegococ.org.  In November 2014, Councilmember Gloria joined the Mayor and San Diego Housing Commission (SDHC) to announce Housing First–San Diego, SDHC’s three-year homelessness action plan to create additional affordable housing with supportive services. Housing First–San Diego will impact the lives of as many as 1,500 homeless San Diegans through the following 5-point plan:

Renovates the historical Hotel Churchill to create 72 affordable studios for homeless veterans and youth aging out of the foster care system; awards up to $30 million over the next three years to create Permanent Supportive Housing that will remain affordable for 55 years; commits up to 1,500 federal rental housing vouchers to provide housing to homeless individuals and families; invests up to $15 million from the federal “Moving to Work” rental assistance program to acquire a property that will set aside 20 percent of its units for Permanent Supportive Housing for homeless San Diegans; andDedicates 25 of SDHC’s own affordable units to temporarily provide furnished apartments for homeless individuals and families. SDHC is one of the first public housing agencies in the nation to commit affordable rental housing that it owns for this purpose.

In December 2015, 3 new initiatives were added to the Housing-First San Diego action plan. This includes:

-The Guardian Scholars Program, a partnership between the SDHC and SDSU which assists students who have been homeless or at risk of homelessness, including youths aging out of foster care, under legal guardianship or wards of the state.

 -The Monarch School Project, that will provide federal rental housing vouchers to 25 families who have at least one child enrolled at the Monarch School in Barrio Logan, which is one of only a handful of schools nationwide that specifically serve homeless children.

-For the second consecutive year, up to $10 million will be awarded to developers to create Permanent Supportive Housing or convert existing transitional housing to Permanent Supportive Housing.

Q: Why is stadium more important than ending homelessness? How do you think we can move forward in homelessness when we can’t respect people who don’t look like you and what you assume someone to be?

A: Councilmember Gloria does not believe and has never stated that the stadium is more important than homelessness.  Homelessness in San Diego and working towards achieving the goals of the Housing First –San Diego action plan are some of his highest priorities.  

Q: The Salt Lake City model of housing the homeless (60 Minutes segment) is cheaper than dealing with folks on the street. Can this model fit San Diego? The people triaged in these housing situations were alcoholics, hard drug problems, and mental issues.

A: The model referenced in the 60 Minutes segment on Salt Lake City is the Housing First model, which San Diego is currently in the midst of implementing.  In 2014 the San Diego Housing Commission created the Housing First – San Diego homelessness action plan. You can find out more about this plan here.

Q: How do you deal with the problem of services being downtown while the homeless population is in neighborhoods like Hillcrest and Mission Valley?

A: Downtown San Diego has some excellent service providers and we look forward to more services like this expanding to other neighborhoods in need throughout the city.

Q: Why can’t we have concrete solutions for the homeless children, veterans, men and women and those with mental problems? The city should set aside money to house and help those in need.

A: Each year nearly $70 million in funding is distributed by the San Diego Housing Commission.  This money is a combination of Federal, State and City funds for housing projects and homeless services.  

Q: It is my concern that a disproportionate influx of homeless population is stressing our financial resources. I would like to know and believe that increased funding from the State and federal is being directed our way. This problem/issue is not going to go away.

A: Since Councilmember Gloria came to office, he has been urging the Department of Housing and Urban Development to reassess their funding index.  Nationally, San Diego County is fourth in homeless population with almost 9,000 individuals sleeping on our streets and in our shelters. Last year, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro visited an affordable housing project in San Diego and committed to taking a step toward re-evaluating the federal formula for homeless program funding for the first time in decades. Under the current formula, San Diego is 23rd in the amount of funding it receives compared with other cities. To meet our goals, it is vital to secure the necessary funding to provide housing and services.  

Helpful links with more information:

Voice of San Diego article by Todd Gloria: "Police and Feedings Won't Solve Homelessness- Housing Will."

San Diego Housing Commission