Nearly six months ago, Mayor Kevin Faulconer promised to take swift action to help San Diego’s growing homeless population.
“We must make reducing homelessness our region’s No. 1 social service priority,” Faulconer said during a January State of the City address where he spent significant time talking up solutions.
Months later, many of the mayor’s most high-profile promises to address the problem have stalled.
City Council Democrats rejected Faulconer’s bid for a November vote on hotel-tax hike that would have given the city more cash to address homelessness. The search for a site for hundreds of temporary shelter beds has dragged on. Advocates and even some of the mayor’s supporters have questioned both the status and the efficacy of the temporary beds and a plan to build an intake facility to link homeless people with services. Others question whether the mayor has an overarching strategy to address the problem. The abrupt departure of the staffer Faulconer hired to help coordinate the city’s response to the exploding problem only added to that concern.
Yet Faulconer argues he’s spending more time, money and political capital on homelessness than any other mayor in years. His office provided a laundry list of mostly incremental actions it’s taken this year, from this week’s city-supported expansion of a downtown business group’s program to reconnect up to 400 homeless people with their families to behind-the-scenes efforts to secure more storage space for people living on the streets and lower the barriers to entry at city shelters. A proposal with the city attorney’s office to purchase a South Bay hotel for a transitional housing program for homeless repeat offenders also got the go-ahead from a City Council committee this week, and Faulconer recently announced a slate of proposed reforms meant to urge more housing development.
Faulconer says he’s trying to be strategic. He wants to ensure the new shelter beds and additional initiatives he’s pushing come to fruition, unlike the hotel-tax hike he unsuccessfully pushed this year. Faulconer said he expects to have big announcements in July and that he’s now in the process of securing the support to make them happen.
We Stand Up for You. Will You Stand Up for Us?
I realize my post calling for government to impose a solution will be viewed as impractical (its not) and radical (it is). Three things are driving my sense of urgency:
The human misery and suffering of thousands living on our streets.
The economic impact of having this squalor in our city.
The real possibility of a public health crisis being born in the homeless encampments. We have already had a Hepatitis outbreak in the homeless camps, there are worse things out there. It wouldn't take much for such an outbreak to move to the general population.
Its time to stop with half measures, we need to move now. To quote GOT: "Winter Is Coming."
We have been over and over this, there are too many non-profits, developers, advocates who have entrenched interests and the political muscle to back it up. They see no reason to cooperate because they feel their funding stream is not in danger. There are 4 sources of funding, HUD (probably the largest), County, City, Private. All attempts to build consensus have failed. I would call on the City, County to work with HUD to present a united front of government funding and then tell the non-profits and developers - "This is what we are going to do. If you want funding, you will do the following. . . "
It is evident from their own lack of performance, that the private sector is unwilling and unable to work together. Unfortunately it is now up to government to provide leadership in this area. I am afraid they are going to have to impose a solution, backed up by their control of the funding stream. I personally dislike this type of solution, but sometimes it is necessary. The homeless issue is too important to be left to what are turning out to be bickering children.
I am flummoxed that you mention Shea's and Seidler's mega-tent proposal, but not the permitted encampments that several of us advocates for Unsheltered San Diegans have been promoting for several months, like the ones in Seattle that I shared the report about with you this morning.
“…homeless-serving agencies in the city moved more than 4,000 people into permanent housing last year”.Huh?I can’t wait to see the details on that one.What constitutes “permanent housing”?
"Permanent housing" is a term to distinguish it from group shelter situations, which should be temporary. Permanent housing is going to be a space meant for housing, not a large room set up with cots.
As such, "permanent housing" could typically be a small efficiency apartment or a roommate situation. You have a key to a front door, a place to keep your stuff, a bed, access to a bathroom, and usually some cooking and food storing capacity. You aren't limited artificially to how long you can stay there; you'd be considered a tennant as would any other renter. And unlike shelters, no one makes any rules about what time you have to be there in the evening, and when you have to leave in the morning.
It takes an extraordinary amount of effort to help to transition 4,000 shelter residents into permanent housing situations.You might be surprised to know that many have permanent disability incomes or have jobs, but past bad credit or evictions, plus high costs of housing, prevents access to housing.
I have worked professionally for decades with people in mental health crisis. Maybe one third of them were homeless. Easily over 1,000 homeless people here in San Diego, most of them becoming homeless as local residents.
Not once has any homeless person told me that they needed an intake center.
They have all told me they needed housing that they could afford.
Yet, what are we getting? An intake center. A place to interview homeless people in order to tell them there are no places that they can afford to live.
Doing intakes on the street, where homeless people are, is more effective in helping the long term homeless anyway, since many of them would never walk in the front door of an intake center.
Kevin Faulconer continues to demonstrate his "all hat, no cattle" approach to homelessness in San Diego. As for the Council voting down money for homelessness, that's a Trump-like statement when the truth, as every reader knows, is that the Council was voting against a special election for a "Soccer City." We all know that the money for homelessness and streets was added simply as a bribe for those opposed to the special election.
It's disingenuous to attribute problems here with the idea that homelessness is not static in San Diego. Please tell me where it IS static - nowhere. Every city has had to deal with this and those that have been successful should be our models.
I believe that the real problem is that many here want to solve homelessness "once and for all." They want to walk down the street and never encounter another homeless man, woman or child again. Ain't gonna happen, San Diego. "Pristine" is a pipe dream for any city and the sooner that's acknowledged, the sooner all best efforts to actually HELP and not HIDE the homeless will be successful.
As for the Mayor's "all hat, no cattle" approach - talk, talk, talk. Countless meetings. Countless committees and councils and experts and reports. Meanwhile, San Diego becomes more expensive, less affordable and less generous as a city. The ones who are doing good work continue to do that and to demonstrate one by one that there's a heart here, but it sure isn't residing in the money/power corner.
One suggestion: it's time for the Mayor's staff to review old reports that have already studied homelessness, and not spend additional funds to research problems that have already been identified. For example: a 2014 report to the Mayor, initiated in 2013, recommended more public restrooms be installed in downtown San Diego for homeless families to use, especially seniors and children.
The report specifically noted action was needed to "Avoid Public Health disasters." Here is the full list of reasons they cited to provide restrooms downtown:
There are many health benefits associated with Public Restrooms and a robust URN [Urban Restroom Network] including:
More frequent urination results in decrease bladder cancer likelihood and other illnesses.
Increased water consumption and healthy hydration due to easy, reliable access to restrooms.
Decreased public urination, defecation, and risk of communicable diseases.
Increase physical activity like walking and bicycling due to increased restroom provisions.
**Avoid Public Health disasters when populations urinated and defecate in the streets.** [emphasis added]