We have all come across the person in tattered clothes, sitting on the sidewalk with all of his earthly possessions in a shopping cart, arguing with some unseen antagonist. We often ask ourselves: Why can’t we do something about this?

Commentary - in-story logoAt the core of San Diego’s homelessness crisis are many severely disabled residents who have lived on the streets for years, sometimes decades. The city and county’s current approach has focused mainly on helping self-sufficient people move into mainstream housing. But in the process, it has left too many of our severely disabled citizens on our streets.

According to the Regional Task Force on the Homeless, 35 percent of our 5,000 unsheltered homeless are disabled and have lived on the street for more than a year. We will not make substantial progress on solving street homelessness until we deal with our disabled long-term homeless population.

The only real solution for this population is permanent supportive housing – housing with a voucher to pay a portion of the rent, coupled with supportive services to assist with their needs for as long as they need the support. With the exception of affordable housing units, the region already has most of the pieces in place for this. The task force has assessed the needs of the vast majority of the unsheltered homeless and identified the individuals who need permanent supportive housing. Plenty of federally funded vouchers are available. Funding for the supportive services is in place, or promised by the county supervisors. Now city and county leaders need to step up and help get affordable housing units that can be rented using the vouchers.

Admittedly, San Diego has a tight rental market. Other communities with tight rental markets, however, have found ways to obtain rental units for their disabled homeless. The first thing they did was focus their efforts on housing. San Diego seems reluctant to do that.

San Diego County Board of Supervisor Chairwoman Dianne Jacob barely mentioned homelessness or housing in her latest State of the County address. San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer devoted about 20 percent of his 2017 State of the City address to homelessness and offered a half a dozen proposals, but did not make one concrete plan to create affordable housing for our homeless.

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

The mayor’s office did just release a new 13-page summary for the City Council meeting on homelessness happening Monday at Golden Hall, and that document finally starts to talk about moving forward on creating new affordable housing.

As the mayor’s summary suggests, the critical next step is to institute a coordinated, well-funded landlord incentive program – offering landlords cash incentives, guaranteed rent, damage protection and support services to encourage them to rent to homeless individuals.

Seattle’s rental market is as tight as San Diego’s, yet it has successfully created affordable housing units for 7,000 of its homeless over the last seven years through a model program of landlord incentives. Houston, a city whose leaders have reduced street homelessness by 75 percent, attributes its success to finding affordable housing for its homeless.

One of the positive things Faulconer did last year was budget $4.4 million for limited landlord incentives to house 1,000 veterans. So far, that program has housed 600 homeless veterans, 80 percent of them in permanent supportive housing. He now proposes to expand that to 3,000 homeless people. Community members should make sure he follows through on that promise.

And more programs like that, but better-funded and coordinated countywide, will make a much more immediate impact on our street homelessness crisis than any other expenditure.

From a broader perspective, city and county leaders need to treat disabled homeless housing as a real emergency. Landlord incentives can only go so far in a market with a severe housing shortage. The housing market in Santa Clara County, where San Jose is located, is at least as tight as San Diego’s housing market. Two years ago, Santa Clara County decided to treat homeless housing as a real emergency. Since that time, leaders there have already brought affordable homeless housing units on line for 1,500 people and will house 6,000 more by 2020.

If a fire or landslide wiped out the homes of thousands of San Diego residents, we would find a way to build housing for them on an emergency basis. We need to do the same for our disabled homeless.

It is time for San Diego to stop looking for the cheap quick fix. Instead, we need to focus on ending homelessness by housing our homeless neighbors. Providing the needed affordable housing units will move the region’s long-term disabled homeless residents into permanent supportive housing and significantly reduce the homeless crisis on our streets.

Tom Theisen is the past president of the Regional Task Force on the Homeless and has been a volunteer advocate for San Diego’s homeless for 10 years. Theisen’s commentary has been edited for style and clarity. See anything in there we should fact check? Tell us what to check out here.

    This article relates to: Homelessness, Housing, Opinion

    Written by Opinion

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    Sadie Sullivan-Greiner
    Sadie Sullivan-Greiner

    Our homeless population is not altogether monolithic.  Some need, and will continue to need, supportive housing for long periods of time.  Some need jobs.  Some have substance abuse or other short-to-medium term acute needs, with some degree of long-term follow-up.

    I have to wonder if it would be possible to arrange a crowd-sourced, non-profit, project in conjunction with some one of our local builders, focused on building earthbuilt structures such as Cal-Earth has developed over the the last 20 years or so.  Those who need work could be trained in the Cal-Earth building method, which is code-approved, cheaper, and far more energy efficient than conventional building, and could then build small unit housing that they could themselves afford and that would be cost effective for those with longer-term problems.  These could be located in small-lot infills, as opposed to needing a huge piece of property for dozens or hundreds of units.

    Chris Wood
    Chris Wood subscriber

    San Diego may want to consider a “Community First Village” project where the motto is: 

    “…Goodness has a building code: everyone sleeps inside…”

    See Website - http://mlf.org/community-first/

    Amenities at Community First! Village include:

    • An innovative mix of affordable housing options
    • Places for worship, study and fellowship
    • Memorial garden, columbarium and prayer labyrinth
    • Medical facility for health screenings, and other support services including hospice and respite care
    • Walking trails
    • Community gardens
    • Outdoor movie theater
    • Community market
    • Bed & breakfast for overnight visits
    • Capital Metro bus stop
    • WiFi

    Suggest a sales tax proposition like Proposition A but a ¼% specifically to resolve homelessness.  This probably could not be constructed in established neighborhoods but there are places in San Diego County that might work. 

    A place this might be constructed an hour from downtown is 


    john stump
    john stump subscriber


    4089 Fairmount Avenue,

    City Heights, California 921105

    c/o:  619 732-6793 ramla@panasd.org

    Thursday, June 2, 2016

    Honorable City Council and Mayor Kevin Faulconer

    City of San Diego c/o:  Ms. Elizabeth Maland, San Diego City Clerk

    202 C Street, Second Floor

    San Diego, California 92101

    RE:  Submission of Ballot Proposals for the November 8, 2016 Ballot – Public Health and Social Welfare

    Dear Honorable Council and Mayor,

                    The DEMOCRATIC WOMEN’S CLUB OF SAN DIEGO, through its below designated representatives, submits a ballot proposal for the November 8, 2016 ballot.  The proposal, in summary, addressees the palpable and evident lack of a primary focus on the public health and social welfare of our City’s residents and visitors.   City government seems focused on the things of tourism and economic development rather than human needs.

    The San Diego City Charter currently provides that “, Section 26.1: Public Services Required:  It shall be the obligation and responsibility of The City of San Diego to provide public works services, water services, building inspection services, public health services, park and recreation services, library services, and such other services and programs as may be desired, under such terms and conditions as may be authorized by the Council by ordinance.” [Emphasis added, ARTICLE V, EXECUTIVE AND ADMINISTRATIVE SERVICE].  The Charter further provides, “…that suitable provision may be made for the aid and support of the poor.”  [Emphasis added, ARTICLE VII FINANCE, Section 93: Loans and Advances].  

    The founding City Charter contained specific provisions, requirements, and a Citizen’s oversight Commission to insure that our City fulfills these very primary responsibilities to its residents and visitors. The voters amended the City Charter to remove former sections Section 61: Social Service Department and Section 60: Department of Public Health, based on representations that these services could be better performed by other units of government. It left to Council’s imitative the formation and maintenance of a specific City of San Diego Citizen’s oversight commission.  Today, in the 21st Century, these promises have not been met and conditions are worsening.

    Our City is challenged by ever increasing Homelessness; Drug and Alcohol abuse; communicable diseases, including but not limited to AIDS, Zika, West Niles, and others; Affordable Housing unavailability; Aging issues; new Americans and Refugees integration issues, and other social conditions which lead to poverty, crime and disease.   These human condition issues are accelerating with onslaught of Climate Change and over population. 

    City government has Commissions that focus on Art and Culture, Conventions and Tourism, Parks & Recreation, Planning, Trees, Stadiums, and other special focus commissions; but none focused on the basic human conditions of our people.  We are calling for the return to a people focused government.

    We respectfully request that the Council place on the ballot reinstatement of Section 61: Social Service Department and Section 60: Department of Public Health.   We believe that these sections can be appropriately updated for our current form of government; number of Council Districts: and current social challenges.  We accept those reasonable technical amendments, by the committee and Council. We believe that these two sections can be combined and incorporate some of the splintered and disassociated efforts, to increase efficiency and effectiveness of service coordination and delivery, increased charitable or philanthropic giving, and residential advocacy and oversight

    We request the opportunity to be noticed and heard concerning this ballot proposal.  Thank you for providing the public with this opportunity to participate in formation of its government,



    Ramla Sahid, Ballot Proposal Chairwoman

    LUKE  16  19-31

    john stump
    john stump subscriber

    Here is my thoughts on today’s Street People item.  To call them “Homeless” is about as sensitive as calling the undocumented “illegals” or Elected Officials as just “Politicians”.  San Diego is just as much their home as you and I. 

    I am suggesting two things:

    1.Form AD Hoc Council Action Committee; and

    2.The new proposed City Budget must contain DEPARTMENT DETAIL for Human Health, Housing, & Services

    The current Housing Commission may be a component of that approach but it has demonstrated that it is incapable of leading the full effort

    All the best,

    John W. Stump, III

    City Heights, California 92105


    Honorable City Council,

                Thank you for scheduling a special hearing on the continuing and accelerating crisis concerning Human Health, Housing, & Services.  This subject is not new or unique to our City or our times.  Whenever people gather into Cities, municipalities are confronted with large numbers of displaced, poor, dysfunctional, and homeless persons.  Some survive along our streets, in our parks, libraries, jails. abandoned buildings and on our own couches.  What is new is the 50 year San Diego experiment to make these Sisters and Brothers someone else’s problem.

    Some 50 years ago Human Health, Housing, & Services were removed from the City’s Budget Department Detail.  That experiment has not worked and will not work.  It is all right to admit we made a mistake and begin again to address Human Health, Housing, & Services

    The Charter continues to place that responsibility on the Council - The San Diego City Charter currently provides that “, Section 26.1: Public Services Required:  It shall be the obligation and responsibility of The City of San Diego to provide public works services, water services, building inspection services, public health services, park and recreation services, library services, and such other services and programs as may be desired, under such terms and conditions as may be authorized by the Council by ordinance.” [Emphasis added, ARTICLE V, EXECUTIVE AND ADMINISTRATIVE SERVICE].  The Charter further provides, “…that suitable provision may be made for the aid and support of the poor.”  [Emphasis added, ARTICLE VII FINANCE, Section 93: Loans and Advances]. 

    The Council knows that I have appeared before you, for more than a decade, seeking funding for the poor.            It is time, for the Council to begin meaningful action by directing that the preparation of the new proposed City Budget contain DEPARTMENT DETAIL for Human Health, Housing, & Services.  The current Budget contains, more than $100 million Dollars of  Department Detail for Arts & Culture; Special Promotional Program; Maintenance Zoo Animal Collections; Animal Control Services and other items that are lower on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs than Human Health, Housing, & Services.

    I request, that in addition to other specific actions or referrals the Council takes, include direction concerning the new proposed Budget.  Citizens should be able to see the Council’s commitment to the poor and public health, as required by the Charter.

    Respectfully submitted,

    John Stump

    I have presented below and in the attached documents a previous recommendation from the Democratic Women’s Club.  The DWC and a large group of Citizens appeared before the Rules Committee and full City Council to advocate for comprehensive change

    Omar Passons
    Omar Passons subscribermember

    Yes. This. Now let's get more people saying this in public, in policy meetings, etc. There are some additional sobering statistics on the challenges homeless children face - or children who wind up in the system because their parents are unable to care for them. This is an issue that has devastating long term impacts. I'm glad to see someone with your profile calling for this so publicly.

    Bruce Higgins
    Bruce Higgins subscriber


    I agree that permanent supportive housing is the way to solve the problem.  Perhaps some form of pre-approved development plan can cut down the years long process to construct new housing for the homeless.  The question is what do we do for the homeless in the meantime?  Do we focus everything on building housing and leave them on their own until then?  It is going to rain this week, how do we address their misery until we can get housing built?