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San Diego declares homelessness a public well being disaster. ‘At present, our county takes a major step’

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The San Diego County Board of Supervisors unanimously declared homelessness a public well being disaster Tuesday, a transfer the board stated will create a extra unified, regional method to the issue.

In one other unanimous vote, supervisors additionally authorised a $3 million pilot program to offer $500 a month to 220 seniors to assist them keep away from homelessness over 18 months.

“A public well being method to homelessness will assist align efforts, share sources, and extra purposefully assist handle the basis causes of housing instability and well being on a big scale with a humane response,” stated Vice Chair Nora Vargas, who with Chairman Nathan Fletcher launched the coverage.

“At present, our county takes a major step, by serving as a regional conference, bringing cities, enterprise organizations and repair suppliers collectively in a collaborative effort to develop progressive, sustainable, long-term options to forestall and finish homelessness.”

Whereas the declaration itself doesn’t create new packages or generate new funding, supervisors stated it could elevate homelessness as a regional situation and name consideration to the well being facets of the issue.

A depend carried out in February discovered 8,427 homeless individuals all through the county, with greater than half residing with out shelter.

The Regional Job Pressure on Homelessness, which conducts the depend, discovered 14 % of homeless individuals have persistent well being circumstances, 18 % have psychological well being circumstances, 12 % have bodily disabilities, 13 % have substance use issues and about 25 % are 55 and older .

Following the vote, Father Joe’s Villages President and CEO Deacon Jim Vargas issued an announcement in help of the declaration.

“Collectively, we will remedy the disaster of homelessness, however we should transfer out of disciplinary and jurisdictional silos to collaborate and work as companions with measurable targets, he stated. “This declaration is a key step to drive additional collaboration between our native jurisdictions, homeless companies suppliers, well being care professionals, and others to develop sources and a complete method.”

Throughout the assembly, San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria’s chief of workers Nick Serrano spoke in help of the declaration and stated all ranges of presidency ought to work collectively on the difficulty.

Jordan Beane, director of coverage and communications for the Regional Job Pressure on Homelessness, referred to as the declaration extremely essential.

“One factor is evident,” Beane stated. “Merely being and not using a house is a harmful well being disaster.”

Homeless advocate Martha Sullivan referred to as into the assembly in help of the coverage and stated the county Medical Examiner’s Workplace had reported 495 deaths of homeless individuals in 2021, up from 334 in 2020.

Fletcher stated the county has grow to be extra concerned than ever in engaged on options to homelessness, however extra must be performed regionally.

“The best factor on the earth is for folk to face up and say, ‘Not right here, not there, not this program or not this program,’” he stated in regards to the resistance some communities have put as much as shelters and companies. “The onerous, troublesome work is setting up issues that, whereas imperfect, will truly assist get individuals off the road and get individuals the companies and assist and help they want.”

Most callers and public audio system had been in help of the general public well being declaration and of the lease subsidy program for seniors dealing with homelessness.

Offering some background on the subsidy proposal, Serving Seniors President and CEO Paul Downey spoke earlier than the board and stated his group had launched a wants evaluation report final yr and located many seniors stated one other $300 a month would stabilize their housing scenario. Downey stated 80 % of 400 seniors interviewed within the evaluation stated they confronted housing instability due to financial causes.

Beane informed supervisors that the newest depend by the Regional Job Pressure on Homelessness discovered about 25 % of homeless individuals on the road had been 55 or older, and the oldest particular person counted this yr was 87.

“When it is just some hundred {dollars}, we should always do every part we will to fill that hole,” he stated in regards to the lease subsidy. “The best approach to remedy homelessness is to verify no one experiences it within the first place.”

Sullivan, the homeless advocate who had supported the general public well being declaration, additionally referred to as in to voice help of the subsidy program, however stated she was dissatisfied that funds wouldn’t start till subsequent March.

“The urgency is dire,” she stated. “These of us haven’t got till March. There’s plenty of of us who’re going to grow to be homeless ready for this. And I am very dissatisfied it is solely 220 households.”

To qualify for the subsidy, an applicant have to be at the least 55 years outdated and the top of family. The applicant’s family revenue could not exceed 50 % of the realm median revenue, and the family have to be severely rent-burdened, which is outlined as paying greater than 50 % of family revenue in direction of housing.

Throughout the pilot program, choice can be given to candidates 60 years or older whose revenue is at or under 30 % of the realm median revenue and to seniors who dwell inside one of many 39 Well being Fairness Zip Codes, areas recognized as having a number of the poorest entry to wholesome residing circumstances.

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