San Diego is eager to see an overhaul to the federal formula that doles out money to cities to combat homelessness – the current setup gives more money to cities that have smaller homeless populations than San Diego. But at least three cities that benefit from the current arrangement – Chicago, New York and Philadelphia – don’t want it to change, and are vigorously opposing the plans, saying the effort would cost them millions of dollars, federal records show.
For more than a year, San Diego Rep. Scott Peters has led the charge to revise Department of Housing and Urban Development standards that would help San Diego receive the kind of funding that city and county officials believe it should receive, based on its homeless population. Peters first approached HUD about revising the formula in 2013, after Voice of San Diego revealed that cities with far smaller homeless populations received far more funding.
San Diego’s homeless population is the fourth largest in the country but ranks 22nd in Continuum of Care funding – the system by which the federal government doles out money to cities or regions – according to the 2015 Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress.
But under new regulatory plans being considered by HUD, San Diego may receive as much as $3 million more in funding for homeless programs to serve 8,700 people, justifying its ranking among the top U.S. cities. The $13.3 million San Diego received in 2015 would be increased to $16.6 million under the proposal.
“I know that matching the resources with the need should be a priority for everyone. I think something is wrong with the formula that now exists. I think most people get that,” Peters said in an interview. “We want a firm opportunity and a fair shake, that’s all.”
But other cities are upset, saying proposals considered by HUD may drastically reduce their funding. Their objections raise an uncomfortable truth: Without an increase in funding, any changes to boost cities with larger homeless populations likely means taking money from others.
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It's great that Scott Peter's and others in the region are pursing a possible 3-6 million dollars per year in funding from HUD. That's a lot of money and could do important things. I hope, however, that we don't focus too much on this money to the exclusion of other funding that is needed. 3+ regions across California passed bond measures in the hundreds of millions of dollar range in November 2016. LA's was 1.2 billion. When money is used for construction, local money generally accounts for 1/3 of the funding, matched by 1/3 state, and 1/3 federal. It would be very efficient for us in San Diego County to take advantage of these state and federal matches by providing a large local source through a bond measure. In 2017, the RCCC (Regional Continuum of Care Council) and RTFH (Regional Task Force on the Homeless) will be creating (through a consultant) a regional plan to end homelessness in San Diego. That plan should calculate the funding needed and the amount of a bond that would be necessary to provide the housing (including supportive services) necessary. Engaging with landlords is also a way to find more apartments that can be rented using Section 8 vouchers. This is currently done by 6 housing agencies across the county in a sporadic way. This could be centralized under the RTFH and done more aggressively. As this is a regional problem having to do with the well-being of citizens, these positions should be funded by the County. Kristin Gaspar was newly elected as a county board of supervisor and states that homelessness is one of her top issues. Lobbying to her might be effective. Chris Ward is also very supportive and represents the City of SD's district most affected by the issue. Maybe a Chris/Kristin sponsored County wide bond on the 2018 or 20 ballot?
"Bonds" are new taxes, California's efforts to bond / tax itself out of social issues may be detrimental as increasing the cost of living through taxation seems to be a good way to increase homelessness. Our government has demonstrated it's inability to spend money wisely, feeding the beast through more taxes (bonds) seems futile.
@philip piel @dstein For a certain population of homeless people who are frequent users of social services (emergency services, hospital, jails, mental health services), it is less expensive to house them than to leave them on the streets. This is generally about the top 10% of the annual population, so maybe 3,000 people in San Diego (based on similar proportions and an in-depth cost study in Santa Clara County). San Diego has different dynamics as we do not have county funded hospitals, so some of these costs are funded by the insurers, hospitals, and the state and federal governments. However, they are costs. We could more efficiently (less $) care for these people by housing them.
You're right though, housing other homeless people above that would be a purely "social good" thing. We should certainly start with the highest cost users to be efficient and see if we can ever get to the rest of the group. There is a program sponsored by the State of California called Whole Person Wellness that will hopefully identify these high cost people. In Santa Clara, they use the Silicon Valley Triage tool which takes it one step further and predicts future high costs based on 38 criteria (age, health conditions, etc.).
Also, the RTFH is improving its accountability efforts for the homeless services providers. I'd expect improvements in 2017.
But very good point, we shouldn't waste money.
“….This congressman should get his money, but it should not be at the expense of other localities’ programs. It should not be at anybody else’s expense…..tell HUD to put more money into the pot and he can have what he wants”.
Can anyone identify a more compelling argument to get rid of, or drastically reduce, federal programs which allow politicians in various cities and states to lobby Uncle Sugar for their “fair share” of a pot of money that is created by writing checks against a non-existent pool of money in Washington? Return this problem to the states NOW.
Hopefully, Doctor Carson, if confirmed by a Senate drunk on OPM*, will propose drastic cutbacks in federally-funded urban programs. Virtually every large city has a “homeless problem”, but competing for “federal” dollars that look like money from the Tooth Fairy is not the solution.
*“Other People’s Money”, the mother’s milk of politics.
@Bill Bradshaw So what is the solution? When your roof leaks, you have to fix it. Fixing it costs money. Would you rather see thousands of people living in the streets? The money should be spent wisely no doubt. But waiting for the Tooth Fairy (your analogy) to appear with a solution is a fantasy.
This may sound strange to a lot of people but roof leaks are often not the result of a single event. Our City / State government wants to be everything to everybody. Waiting on the next, best idea to spend tax dollars.
The "Tooth Fairy (your quote) has been standing in front of us in the form of fiscal responsibility in our government and public education system. In the last month VOSD has reported on the gross negligence in SDUSD, tax dollars thrown down the garbage disposal of ineptness and non-accountability yet we look to the tax payers once again to solve a problem. Our State government is more concerned about supporting Black Lives Matter, the rights of illegal immigrants and bathrooms for people searching for their sexual identity than they are about "finding" $43 million dollars in a Parks & Recreation account they didn't know about.
Can we at least attempt to account for the money currently being spent (inspect our roofs) before going back to the well (tax payers)? Can we at least hold public education accountable before we motivate more of "The Rich" to seek shelter in other states?