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We asked local leaders and homeless providers what they think is keeping San Diego from ending homelessness and what could be done to solve it. Here’s what they said.
Affordable housing, cash and a clear vision guiding it all.
Those are the three things nonprofit leaders, advocates and local leaders say are most sorely needed as the region tries to combat growing street homelessness.
We asked a group of them two questions:
What do you think is the biggest roadblock keeping San Diego from ending homelessness? And what’s a solution you think San Diego should pursue to reduce or even end homelessness?
Here were some of their responses.
“The problems that lead to homelessness are incredibly diverse and interconnected. Therefore, in order to end homelessness, we need diverse and interconnected sectors from our community, including nonprofits, government, business, faith communities, property owners and managers, law enforcement and more, working together on a coordinated, clear plan. The good news is that in San Diego we are now implementing needed cross-sectoral strategies to address homelessness; we have most of the right people at the table. But as we come together we must change our perspective and work differently. We must move beyond our own agency goals and align all resources and energy toward our regional goal of ending homelessness. That is a seismic shift; one that is under way but one that still has further to go.” – Greg Anglea, executive director, Interfaith Community Services and chair, regional Opening Doors Committee
“San Diego has made great strides during the last decade: More people in leadership have gained a better understanding of the problem, and they know what the solution is, and they’re doing a better job of working together. However, we still a lack a singular focus.” – Assemblywoman Toni Atkins
“Funding – without a doubt. Last year Father Joe’s Villages alone helped more than 800 men, women and families find their way back into permanent housing, and it could have been more. We just didn’t have the funding. Housing is a close second.” – Bill Bolstad, chief development officer, Father Joe’s Villages
“San Diego has an affordable housing crisis. Permanent affordable housing for homeless persons is a complex subset of that problem. We can’t end one without addressing the broader problem.” – Dolores Diaz, executive director, Regional Task Force on the Homeless
“One of the biggest roadblocks is funding. The federal funding formula for homelessness hasn’t been changed since the 1970s, which means San Diego doesn’t get its fair share of funding and other cities with smaller homeless populations receive more money. Now that HUD is listening to our calls for a change and has opened a comment period to consider changing the formula, we’re optimistic San Diego will be able to get a larger slice of the pie.” – San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer
“We are desperately in need of leadership on this issue. That one person (champion or czar) to rally the stakeholders around a coordinated effort that would keep the region focused on real solutions. We are still pulling in too many different directions and that person is needed to overcome the entrenched roadblock that is holding back our efforts.” – Michael McConnell, homeless advocate
“The inability to focus on housing first. The most vulnerable in our community thrive when there is stability in their lives along with wraparound services. The overall success of permanent supportive housing is encouraging in looking at the need for housing before all else, with supportive services as a safety net.” – Anne Rios, executive director, homeless advocacy nonprofit Think Dignity
“Our biggest roadblock is finding front doors. We need available, affordable housing for people experiencing homelessness, and in a county with a nearly acute shortage of new housing, locating those doors can be challenging. One of the strategies to find those doors is to partner and encourage landlords to rent to this population and to remove barriers to make it more conducive to rent to this population.” – County Supervisor Ron Roberts
“San Diego’s shortfall of over 135,000 homes that are affordable to the region’s lowest-income renters coupled with rising rents – up over 30 percent in the last 15 years – leaves too many households with the dilemma of having to choose between paying the rent and covering the cost of other necessary expenses, such as food and medicine. In this environment, too many of San Diego’s low-income families are at risk of becoming homeless, or worse, slipping into homelessness. Until we make significant progress on chipping away at our affordable housing shortfall, that lack of a housing safety net is one of our biggest roadblocks to ending homelessness.” – Stephen Russell, executive director, San Diego Housing Federation
“Even if everything else works as designed, there still aren’t enough units to house all of the homeless people in our community. Our shortage of housing pushes those in our middle class to regions with plenty of housing at affordable prices, but it also pushes low-income individuals and families into homelessness.” – Jerry Sanders, president and CEO, San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce
“Acknowledge that every single person in San Diego can play a role in ending homelessness. Property managers can rent to people looking to rebuild broken lives. Families can volunteer, donate and support local nonprofits who are a part of our regional plan. Each of us can take just a few extra moments to get know that person we see on the streets, to show them we care about them, ask them how they’re doing and offer if nothing else an encouraging word. You may never know just how much that can help, and what a difference it makes for our homeless neighbors to simply be respected and treated as equals, as who they are – our neighbors, and just as much a part of our community as everyone fortunate enough have a roof over their heads.” – Greg Anglea, executive director, Interfaith Community Services and chair, regional Opening Doors Committee
“We have to produce more housing. No matter which program they go through, the end goal for all of our clients is housing. San Diego’s rental housing market is extremely tight, which makes it very competitive. Whether it’s something in their background, an issue of affordability or both, our clients really struggle to find permanent housing.” – Bill Bolstad, chief development officer, Father Joe’s Villages
“Regionwide affordable housing is the one solution that will reduce or effectively end homelessness. There are two ways to make that happen. You build it, or you take the existing housing stock and make it affordable. In order to make both of these happen, we have to be willing to leave no stone unturned; engaging all levels of stakeholders. We must be willing to have tough conversations with local communities, state and federal civic leaders that bring about change using data to drive decisions.” – Dolores Diaz, executive director, Regional Task Force on the Homeless
“If we truly want to end homelessness in San Diego, we need the resources at the federal, state and local levels to quickly build housing and provide the necessary services to implement programs and policies in line with the housing first initiative. It is also critical that we shift the region’s transitional housing stock to lower the barriers for entry in order to fully utilize these beds as a bridge to more permanent solutions.” – San Diego City Councilman Todd Gloria, who leads the Regional Continuum of Care Council
“A central intake facility that would provide 600 interim beds with all services needed to begin the process of ending their homelessness. This facility would be the first step in addressing the barriers creating their homeless situation and would be a collaborative efforts amongst all providers.” – Amy Gonyeau, chief operating officer, Alpha Project
“Explore options that would reduce street homelessness while efforts are made to increase permanent supportive housing units. Specifically, provide them with a place to live temporarily so they do not have to sleep on the streets.” – Bahija Hamraz, executive director of the Clean & Safe Program, San Diego Downtown Partnership
“Rather than building new housing which can be very costly, a possible solution to reduce or even end homelessness could be more funding for voucher-based programs for existing vacant units with funding to provide education, engagement and support of current landlords who may be concerned or unwilling to rent to homeless population.” – Kathryn Lembo, president & CEO, South Bay Community Services
“Street outreach is one of our biggest gaps in dealing with street homelessness. Having professionals on the streets 24/7/365 to assist the homeless population would be a game-changer. Professionals who are meeting people where they are at and building the relationships that are needed to help people access solutions.” – Michael McConnell, homelessness advocate
“Place more emphasis on preventative measures well before anyone becomes homeless. Such as, the end of the school-to-prison pipeline that criminalizes individuals and prevents them from getting employment, which then leads to homelessness. Focusing on trauma that occurs due to domestic violence and sexual assault, which leads to homelessness. Income inequality within communities of color/women/LGBT. Programs in place for transition-aged youth aging out of foster care. The list can go on and on, but the thing that they all have in common is preventative measures vs. reactionary measures. It’s the difference between vigilant screening for cancer and radiation or chemotherapy at stage 4.” – Anne Rios, executive director, Think Dignity
“Since the elimination of California’s redevelopment agencies that provided $1 billion annually to fund the construction of affordable homes, no significant state or local program has replaced the much-needed revenue needed to construct these homes. In addition to reducing barriers to building housing to meet the housing needs of all San Diegans, we must find ways to provide much needed state and local funding to construct homes that are affordable to individuals and families with incomes that the market alone will never serve. Without these critical revenue sources, San Diego’s shortfall of affordable homes will continue to grow and leave us further away from our goal to end homelessness. More housing vouchers are not enough – the market is so constrained that even folks who are holding vouchers are unable to find homes at which to use them.” – Stephen Russell, executive director, San Diego Housing Federation