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Mayor’s Homelessness Czar Is Out

Stacie Spector, who led Mayor Kevin Faulconer’s efforts to combat homelessness, is out after seven months on the job.

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

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.

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.”

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