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    Together over the last few months, we’ve been exploring the scope of homelessness in San Diego in a series we call “Quest.” When we launched this series, we knew it’d be a tricky one to end. A reporter could spend every day finding new stories about the 9,000 people counted in shelters and on the streets this year, and the multitude of agencies trying, and sometimes failing, to help.

    We’ve sparked in-depth conversations, unearthed problems and their causes, and filled in gaps in understanding about homelessness in San Diego.

    It’s time for us to switch gears. But first, here are some highlights of what we learned:

    Scope:

    • We followed the massive annual effort behind how the region counts its homeless population, which numbered about 9,000 in this January’s rainy count.

    What It’s Like to Be Homeless Here:


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    • We followed Liz Hirsch, a woman who’d recently become homeless in December and who sent us dispatches from Starbucks about sleeping at shelters and cheap motels. She waxed poetic about her efforts to steer clear of a certain mindset she noticed among some of her fellow homeless. She moved indoors in February, to a yearlong program to help senior women transition out of homelessness.

    • Two people who’d been homeless previously told us their stories at our homelessness event at the city’s winter tent in Barrio Logan.

    Funding:

    • Decades-old formulas shortchange San Diego’s share of federal homelessness funding, and give more to cities with fewer homeless people, our investigation revealed. Local and federal lawmakers pledged to lobby to change those formulas. As of earlier this month, they haven’t made much headway.

    • City budget discussions: Filner wants to fund both of the city’s emergency winter tents for the entire year, not just four months. Here are six graphs that show the funding pledges and shortfalls for city homelessness programs. Note: Filner has since pledged to fund the extra $600,000 to keep the vets’ tent open year-round.

    See how the funding pieces fit together in our San Diego Explained episode:

     

    What’s Being Tried:

    • We dove in to Project 25 at the end of its second year, as part of a three-year pilot program to coax some of the region’s most frequent users of hospital and emergency services off the streets. The window on this project and other pilot “housing first” programs is beginning to close, but advocates are seeking additional funding to continue.

    Connections Housing:

    • Our investigation revealed the city’s new permanent center is taking a while to get up to speed, especially in the one-stop depot that was central to the project’s proposal. A former outreach worker posited it might have been better to wait to move vulnerable street-dwellers inside until the programs were at full strength.

    What to Watch:

    • What happens next for Connections Housing?

    • Will Project 25 find ongoing private funding? Will it expand?

    • What impact will lobbying have on the federal formulas for homelessness funding?

    • How will the mayor’s proposed tent shelter expenditures for next year’s budget go over with the City Council?

    Lingering Questions:

    I could keep tugging on this thread for a long time. Here are some of the stories we didn’t get to in this series:

    • What proportion of San Diego’s homeless were homeless when they moved here? Do other cities actively bus their homeless residents to San Diego? The picture of San Diego as a destination for homeless people shows up in many policy discussions, private and public, about investing in programs for the homeless.

    • How big is San Diego’s homelessness sector? We tried to get our arms around how much government and private spending is pumped into combating homelessness, an effort that led to our reporting on the federal formulas. But we hit a few walls in compiling the numbers. For example, the county told me that just one department spends more than $200 million on homeless services, but it didn’t necessarily mean all of those funds were dedicated or restricted for use by homeless people. It’d still be useful to see how big the sector is here, in order to gauge its effectiveness.

    • How will the region address its need for more affordable places to place people transitioning from homeless programs? Incentives for landlords? Construction of new rent-restricted units?

    What have you learned about homelessness in the last few months? What questions still linger for you? I’d love to hear from you. Please leave a comment below.

    Voice of San Diego is a nonprofit that depends on you, our readers. Please donate to keep the service strong. Click here to find out more about our supporters and how we operate independently.

      This article relates to: Community, Homelessness, News, Quest, Quest: Homelessness, Share

      Written by Kelly Bennett

      Kelly Bennett is a freelance contributor to Voice of San Diego. You can reach her directly at kelly@vosd.org.

      15 comments
      Bob Seegmiller
      Bob Seegmiller

      (continued from previous post -- is there size limit on posts?) 6) government needs to support businesses on all levels. Reducing taxations, especially on businesses, will stop the exodus of businesses from California. Businesses provide jobs, jobs provide taxes and keep people off the streets by having jobs. This means government at all levels: city, state, federal. Courts have to help, too, except that's more complicated. In the mind-set that is currently popular in California, I don't see any of this happening. I'd say too bad, but it's actually bordering on catastrophic. The question is when will we see it, realize it. Best regards, and good luck with your future efforts

      Bob Seegmiller
      Bob Seegmiller

      As far as the folks I end up working with, nearly all of them were homeless before they moved here. Many choose to return to where they came from, once they see the flood of homeless downtown.

      Kelly Abbott
      Kelly Abbott

      Actually, it's 2500 characters. But it can be increased.

      Dagny Salas
      Dagny Salas

      Sorry for getting the character count wrong Bob. Kelly, let's.

      Dagny Salas
      Dagny Salas

      Hi Bob, Thanks for commenting. There is a size limit on comments: I believe it's 5,000 characters. Hope that helps clarify it.

      Bit-watcher
      Bit-watcher subscriber

      (continued from previous post -- is there size limit on posts?) 6) government needs to support businesses on all levels. Reducing taxations, especially on businesses, will stop the exodus of businesses from California. Businesses provide jobs, jobs provide taxes and keep people off the streets by having jobs. This means government at all levels: city, state, federal. Courts have to help, too, except that's more complicated. In the mind-set that is currently popular in California, I don't see any of this happening. I'd say too bad, but it's actually bordering on catastrophic. The question is when will we see it, realize it. Best regards, and good luck with your future efforts

      Kelly Abbott
      Kelly Abbott contributormember

      Comments character count is 5,000 now.

      Dagny Salas
      Dagny Salas memberadministrator

      Sorry for getting the character count wrong Bob. Kelly, let's.

      Kelly Abbott
      Kelly Abbott contributormember

      Actually, it's 2500 characters. But it can be increased.

      Dagny Salas
      Dagny Salas memberadministrator

      Hi Bob, Thanks for commenting. There is a size limit on comments: I believe it's 5,000 characters. Hope that helps clarify it.

      Bob Seegmiller
      Bob Seegmiller

      Kelly, Interesting article -- thank you for your hard, hard work, but what I don't see are efforts to preventing it happening in the first place. I've worked on and off with some homeless folk over the past 15 years through our church. 1) the homeless issue is a political football in SD. I will be blunt and point out that for some of our politcians, it's about (only) _*appearing*_ compassionate. Simply throwing money at the problem can't make it go away. That the city (and most importantly from a taxpayer-funded point of view) *bureaucracy* will be involved in hands-on management and care of the homeless is scary, considering in general the record of government efficiency. The city should be shameless about supporting the non-profits and the churches that help the homeless, because they do it in a much leaner fashion than the city ever can. Unfortunately, it's doubtful that will fly, since some groups will whine about the city working with religious organizations. Too bad, much too bad. So keeping the city out of it is not likely to happen. 2) mental health: hospitals need to be re-opened, and legal obstacles to getting people into them should be reduced. Unfortunately, this is unlikely. Some years back the U-T published an article that pointed out that the cost would likely be even for care for the mentally-ill homeless on the street versus hospitals. 3) families: families need to be supported, and two-parent families need to be emphasized. The research is in on this already. Unfortunately, it's been politicized far too much, so I don't see the press or the government pushing hard on this except unless it expects to be branded in a nasty, nasty fashion. Especially in our minority populations, single-parent families already trouble a group with challenges. Behavior of both kids and adults needs to improve in this regard to be much, much more responsible. 4) substance-abuse: until it becomes less approved of in society, I don't see this problem improving. The U.S. drug problem funds the cartels, and wrecks our society and destabilizes our southern neighbors. Media does not help much at all (news organizations and entertainment). This includes both alcohol and drugs. 5) availability of resources will only attract more homeless. We know that's true. (continued next post)

      Bit-watcher
      Bit-watcher subscriber

      Kelly, Interesting article -- thank you for your hard, hard work, but what I don't see are efforts to preventing it happening in the first place. I've worked on and off with some homeless folk over the past 15 years through our church. 1) the homeless issue is a political football in SD. I will be blunt and point out that for some of our politcians, it's about (only) _*appearing*_ compassionate. Simply throwing money at the problem can't make it go away. That the city (and most importantly from a taxpayer-funded point of view) *bureaucracy* will be involved in hands-on management and care of the homeless is scary, considering in general the record of government efficiency. The city should be shameless about supporting the non-profits and the churches that help the homeless, because they do it in a much leaner fashion than the city ever can. Unfortunately, it's doubtful that will fly, since some groups will whine about the city working with religious organizations. Too bad, much too bad. So keeping the city out of it is not likely to happen. 2) mental health: hospitals need to be re-opened, and legal obstacles to getting people into them should be reduced. Unfortunately, this is unlikely. Some years back the U-T published an article that pointed out that the cost would likely be even for care for the mentally-ill homeless on the street versus hospitals. 3) families: families need to be supported, and two-parent families need to be emphasized. The research is in on this already. Unfortunately, it's been politicized far too much, so I don't see the press or the government pushing hard on this except unless it expects to be branded in a nasty, nasty fashion. Especially in our minority populations, single-parent families already trouble a group with challenges. Behavior of both kids and adults needs to improve in this regard to be much, much more responsible. 4) substance-abuse: until it becomes less approved of in society, I don't see this problem improving. The U.S. drug problem funds the cartels, and wrecks our society and destabilizes our southern neighbors. Media does not help much at all (news organizations and entertainment). This includes both alcohol and drugs. 5) availability of resources will only attract more homeless. We know that's true. (continued next post)

      Scottshs
      Scottshs

      Kelly, Thank you for spending a great deal of time on this major issue. I Have heard Project 25 is going away. What a shame. For over 20 years I believe I have been part of the solution to End Homelessness as we know it. Treatment, Jobs Housing, long term follow. Now the Headline is to (End Chronic Homeless). Not sure whom that rings true with. For Decade's the Custodians of Failure as my colleague calls them, Pound their fists and tell us all what needs to be done. Then a funding source is somehow discovered to Study the Problem again. Each year we fight, fight to keep the Shelters open that is not the solution. The Housing First model is starting to work But...... Systemic change doesn't come From HUD, or conference's or Consultants. It comes from working and thinking out of the Box. Do what you have Always Done get what you have always gotten. Clearly we all want to solve the problem, at least that is my sense and hope. But one must wonder if that were true for the supposed change agents. Why is homelessness as we know it not getting better. Some will say I am not correct. Ask the Homeless men and woman and their families, Ask the legislative leaders, Ask the Veterans, ask the investors, you can even ask the providers. One thing most will agree on. There isn't enough resource to solve the problem. The ROI sucks. The business community I am sure will not disagree.. So at the End of the day...... with summer in front of us. My forecast in 6 months we will be right back where we started. I Hope I am wrong. My Two Cents.. Many will say heck we are all working together better than ever. We have all heard that before. Filner has taken a position, thank you Mayor. So have many others. As a community that fact we can't even provide Public restrooms without a major controversy speaks volumes to how we will define success with this major issue. Enough from me. Can't wait to hear the feedback.