San Diego needs a permanent homeless services and housing center
By Councilman Todd Gloria
Shelter is one of our most basic needs as people. With more of our San Diego neighbors without places to live than ever before, addressing chronic and family homelessness requires leadership, sustained focus and dynamic regional action.
Almost 500 local people joined the ranks of homeless since last year. The Regional Taskforce on the Homeless counts 7,892 San Diegans countywide without appropriate stable housing, often surviving in our shelters, streets and canyons. As the numbers of homeless continue to grow, neighbors wrestle with impacts of homeless and taxpayers foot the related extraordinary health care and law enforcement costs. As San Diegans, we have a shared responsibility to ensure our neighbors have basic needs met.
Regional attention will ensure long-term success in caring for our neighbors, and the city of San Diego is working aggressively to address this complex issue.
Some say the most needed project in San Diego is a new main library, a new city hall, a Chargers stadium or a bigger convention center. I disagree. The most needed civic project is a permanent homeless services and housing center.
San Diego must have year-round homeless facilities to provide help to those who want it. That longstanding need is now closer to being fulfilled, thanks to recent action by the City Council’s Land Use and Housing Committee.
The city’s first facility offering comprehensive services and housing would be located at the World Trade Center building in Downtown San Diego. The City Council will soon consider entering into exclusive negotiations with the developers in order to finalize plans and finances.
Developed by several partnering organizations that recognized the value in combining health care, mental health services, substance abuse care, and job training with housing, the model has been used successfully in locations in Los Angeles and throughout the United States. I am confident the project will be similarly beneficial to our region by addressing the challenges of homelessness that have only worsened in years of inaction on meaningful policies and projects.
As much as neighbors are concerned about transients in the community, very few people raise their hands to host locations for services or shelter. This is completely understandable because there are no local examples of the one-stop shop facilities like that proposed for Downtown San Diego.
My colleagues on the City Council and the neighbors they represent will be impressed by the social and economic benefits of the center, and I look forward to their support of the project. As successful as the World Trade Center site will surely be, additional facilities will be needed elsewhere in our city and I am open to helping identify potential sites in my own council district to continue to be part of the solution.
Recently, the City Council further solidified our focus on the complex issues of homelessness by transferring oversight responsibilities to the San Diego Housing Commission. The commission has over 30 years of experience constructing and operating housing for low-income San Diegans and is known nationally for its cutting-edge approach to affordable housing. Importantly, the commission has the resources to dedicate multiple staff members to the tasks of helping moving people into permanent, supportive housing.
This is a major influx of resources over the current practice of having one mayoral staffer oversee this matter, among a portfolio of other assignments. Greater attention is now being paid to this pressing social and economic problem.
These developments mark a new chapter in the city of San Diego when it comes to solving homelessness. For too long, addressing homelessness seemed to be on our back burner. It’s now on the minds of most San Diegans, according to April’s survey on Residents’ Opinions on City Services, spurring motivation and action from government leaders, service providers and citizens. However, as we do our part, homelessness is not confined to the city of San Diego. We must work together as a region to make significant progress moving people from the streets onto productive paths.
I recently boosted my personal involvement in this critical issue by agreeing to serve as chair of the Keys to Housing Advisory Council. Spearheaded by San Diego Grantmakers, our goal is to incubate a regional plan and toolbox for cities to end family homelessness in our community. I am joined by officials from throughout San Diego County, who provide regional representation to assure that strategies and tools developed can be implemented both regionally and within individual jurisdictions.
With this work, along with that of the city of San Diego and other local jurisdictions and agencies, our region will stand proudly in our care for our homeless neighbors.
Todd Gloria is the San Diego City Counci lmember representing District 3. He is also chair of the Land Use and Housing Committee.