The former White House staffer hired to help Mayor Kevin Faulconer combat the city’s growing homelessness crisis is out after seven months.

Stacie Spector, who had been Faulconer’s senior adviser for housing solutions, and the mayor’s office confirmed late Monday she is no longer working for the city.

Photo courtesy of the city of San Diego
Photo courtesy of the city of San Diego
Stacie Spector

Spector had spent months working on controversial plans to address increasing street homelessness, including an intake facility that would connect homeless residents to services and a plan to rapidly make hundreds of shelter beds available to homeless San Diegans. At times, she tussled with advocates pushing for a greater focus on permanent housing.

It’s not clear what Spector’s exit means about the future of the plans she worked on.

Spector and the mayor’s office did not comment on the nature of her departure or the status of her proposals.

The news follows the release of the annual point-in-time count, which showed San Diego has seen an 18 percent spike in unsheltered homelessness since last year.


We Stand Up for You. Will You Stand Up for Us?

Spector wrote in a text message Monday that she hoped regional leaders would take crucial but challenging steps in the future to address a booming challenge.

“It has been my honor to work on behalf of the 5,000 unsheltered and over 9,000 homeless in San Diego. As you know, they have a plan and with strong leadership from the city, county, (City) Council, Housing Commission and Regional Taskforce (on the Homeless), they will address this regional crisis once and for all,” Spector wrote. “It is now time for the hard decisions — and as you know and we have discussed — change is hard. I wish the (Regional Task Force on the Homeless), Mayor Faulconer, City Council, Board of Supervisors, the very best in making that happen.”

Spector was referring to the recent merger and leadership changes at the Regional Task Force on the Homeless, a countywide group that wants to increase its profile as the nonprofit leading the way on regional plans to reduce homelessness. County Supervisor Ron Roberts and City Councilman Chris Ward, who represents downtown neighborhoods that have seen a dramatic rise in homelessness, now lead the group’s board. The group is working with a Sacramento consultant on a regional plan to address homelessness that it hopes will be released later this year.

Spector had been a surprising pick for the role. A Democrat, she was a former Clinton White House communications strategist who had spent much of her career working on progressive causes. Faulconer, a Republican, said he’d hired her because of her experience bringing others together to collaborate on causes. She did not have previous experience or expertise on homelessness issues before she took the role.

Still, advocates had cheered Faulconer’s announcement he was hiring Spector amid lingering critiques that the mayor hadn’t taken a strong enough leadership role on homelessness. Business and neighborhood leaders, who had for years complained to the mayor, had also seen Spector’s hiring as a sign Faulconer was stepping up his commitment to addressing the issue.

Alpha Project CEO Bob McElroy, who talked regularly with Spector about her plans to address homelessness, said he was shaken by the news.

He said Spector called him Monday morning to let him know she’d no longer be his city contact on the issue.

Spector was regularly in touch with advocates and leaders at nonprofits such as Father Joe’s Villages and Alpha Project at all hours, even on nights and weekends, when issues cropped up. She also frequently attended community meetings and spoke about the mayor’s plans to address homelessness.

McElroy said he wasn’t sure who would lead the way at the city now.

“There’s a hole right now. There’s a hole and from our agency, we don’t know whom to call when we have a basic question on what’s going on out there,” McElroy said.

Matt Awbrey, the mayor’s deputy chief of staff, said the mayor remains focused on addressing homelessness.

“Reducing homelessness continues to be our top social service priority,” Awbrey wrote. “Stacie cares deeply about this issue and the future of our city, and we appreciate her longstanding commitment to San Diego. We sincerely wish her well in her future endeavors.”

    This article relates to: Government, Homelessness, Must Reads

    Written by Lisa Halverstadt

    Lisa writes about San Diego city and county governments. She welcomes story tips and questions. Contact her directly at lisa@vosd.org or 619.325.0528.

    12 comments
    Joan Lockwood
    Joan Lockwood

    Please, Please don't tell me we spent 1.4 M on a salary for a person who did not produce?  Can we afford this Kevin? You have mystified me since you took office- there are long periods of mute when there should be transparency- and back room negotiating that perhaps influences you more than it should- circa Bonnie Dumanis


    My heart weeps for my home- San Diego, CA and the level of "influence" that takes place that the average citizen is not considered at all- and it runs through every agency in the city and county- we have a bunch of crooks- especially law enforcement - who enforces but not necessarily legally.  Its no wonder we have self serving politician they are protected


    Right DA Greenberg? Ms Dumanis?, DA john Haley retired early but still active in collecting sensitive documents through landlords who allow access illegally.  Also our police, Right Walt Vazques, and Goldberg. Salas. Mitch in internal affairs, and a cast of at least 50 (if not 1000's)


    We are in sad shape as a place to find safety, and legal rights for low income senior citizens - right  Mr Greg Knoll?


    barb graham
    barb graham subscriber

    Oh, great. They can use Spector's salary to pay for the dog park at the Children's Park downtown.

    It's not REALLY a "children's park." There's nothing for kids to do. Can't wade in the pool, the city put sharp stones in it to keep people out. Can't use the bathroom, because there isn't on. (What kind of kiddie facility DOESN'T have restrooms?)


    So they don't want bathrooms there, because it might attract the same homeless people who'll be camping out watching yuppies play with their dogs... 


    Message received, San Diego. Loud and clear!

    Amy Markinson
    Amy Markinson

    Why the mayor appointed this woman in the first place is a mystery. She had no experience in this issue, and seems to be a short timer in most jobs -- not the steady hand you need for this issue. Homelessness is a serious problem, the mayor needs to get serious about it.

    john stump
    john stump subscriber

    @Amy Markinson She seemed like a good choice if you were betting that Hillary Clinton was going to be the next President and you wanted an insider to help you get Federal funding and attention for a Republican Mayor.


    Of course things didn't work out that way.  


    It all comes down to Money and the first step is that the Mayor must call out Human Health, Services, and Housing as a significant Department level subject in the City budget.


    The Mayor has proposed millions for Arts & Culture and more than $14+ million for Animal Services and Zoo Maintenance but nothing on that scale for People in need.


    Budget is Policy and the Walk must meet the Talk  LUKE 16  19-31

    john stump
    john stump subscriber

    Thank you for your reporting on this priority human health and services responsibility of the City.  Although the political leadership has wanted to deny this responsibility or to make it someone else's problem your reporting has kept it before the public view.


    During the ongoing City Council's consideration of the Mayor's budget, the Council must identify specific funding for human health, services, and housing. The Mayor's Budget specifically calls out Department expenditures and responsibilities for Animal services and Zoo maintenance, with more than $14+ million dollars in funding.


    Where are the proposed adequate budgeted  City resources for our sisters, brothers, and children in need? Certainly they deserve mention in the Budget!

    Pat Seaborg
    Pat Seaborg subscribermember

    It is disheartening about the lack of transparency from the mayor about why Ms Spector is no longer in her position. It could tell us a lot to know 1) was she fired?  If so, what was criteria she failed to meet?, 2) Did she quit?  If so, why?  3) Will this position be opened to other applicants, or will the position disappear? 4) And finally, will the mayor step up to the plate and be a leader on homelessness solutions?  I have my doubts. He seems to focus more on sports and convention venues.  Therefore, the solutions he has promoted appear to be designed to get visible homelessness away from such existing venues with the police sweeps.


    Can we make him "Venue Czar" and open up the mayor's position for someone who wants to do actual, hard, mayor stuff? Like learning everything possible about reducing homelessness from cities who have actually done that, and leading the charge to replicate that here?  Every leader who has tried the "San Diego is unique" excuse to use non-proven approaches on homelessness have just contributed to those numbers going up.

    Molly Cook
    Molly Cook

    I'm sure Stacie Spector is a nice person, but I really think that many of the territorial homelessness agency heads would freak out if a real leader came in and cleaned up the messes that have been created in the name of "helping."  As would many of San Diego's political leaders (you know who you are). 


    San Diego keeps looking for its "brand."  Right now the homeless problem and its associated problem of high real estate and rental prices have joined to create San Diego's brand.  Yes, we still have our "chamber of commerce" weather, but that's not a brand - that's just nature. 


    We don't need cute cartoon commercials (just out from Father Joe's).  We need bricks and mortar homes for individuals and families of San Diego. Even those with long-awaited vouchers cannot find places to rent.  Roll up your sleeves, Mayor Faulconer and take care of the people in your city - all of them.  You wanted to be mayor. Now do the right thing.  It's on you.

    Joe Jones
    Joe Jones subscriber

    “It has been my honor to work on behalf of the 5,000 unsheltered and over 9,000 homeless in San Diego."

    Great job, Stacie! If you had left six months ago, it would have been your honor to work on behalf of only 4,500 unsheltered and 8,000 homeless in San Diego. 


    Kev, outstanding! It heartens me to see you addressing the local platitude shortage.

    Chris Brewster
    Chris Brewster subscribermember

    This was an inevitable outcome of putting someone with no managerial experience in charge of an intractable issue. Sadly, seven months are lost. It is beyond me how the Mayor gets away with doing nothing and manages to retain broad support. I suppose his focus on public relations over substance gives some insight.

    Sharon Parks
    Sharon Parks

    I think she needs to go to Washington and expose the corrupt officials and Labor Unions that think they OWN this city. and tell officials how this city has been exploiting and crimininalizing homeless. There are also two DA's that are shallow and reckless in their handling this social diseaster. When she was here, I wrote the same 5 POWER S that be in this city, are the reason we have people dying every day on the streets. I feel Alpha Projects pain. The pain of awareness of just how cold and corrupt the city is....


    Molly Cook
    Molly Cook

    I hope the next person will have some solid experience not simply a background in public relations.  San Diego should consider a wider search for someone who understands both homelessness issues and business, because San Diego has got to get some real financial support for this issue.


    Yes, collaboration among agencies is essential,,but it only works if there's leadership to lay out WHAT the agencies will be asked to collaborate on.  San Diego can't afford any more years of wrangling among the agencies on what that direction will be. There are people out there who can shape the direction, and the wrangling agencies should not be allowed - any longer - to hold up the real help San Diego's homeless need.  This is an irresponsible way to continue to approach this problem.


    Homelessness is seen as a social services matter - and pieces of it are just that - but there's a business side of it, too, and that is not being addressed.  As Max Dupree wrote in "The Art of Leadership" there are times when everybody gets a voice, but not everybody gets a vote.


    San Diego needs to get off the dime on this worsening problem.  Now.  We don't need a homelessness czar (an offensive title).  We need a qualified leader! 

    Bill Bradshaw
    Bill Bradshaw subscribermember

    @Molly Cook Time for some payback!  Houston nabbed our school superintendent a few years ago.  Why don't we poach the person who heads their homelessness program, reputed to be the best in the country.  Oh, they operate on a housing first model?  Maybe that won't fly here.