The Business of Ending Homelessness in San Diego

Living in “America’s Finest City” costs a darn fine penny.

Even the gainfully employed find the cost of living a challenge to support. Seems ironic – you move here for the quality of life and then struggle to enjoy it.

I’m often reminded of this dual life on the rare occasion that I visit the beach and see the ocean. It’s just a half-hour away, but worlds from what I consider daily living.

But I’m among the lucky ones.

A recent point-in-time count of the San Diego region’s homeless population shows an increase of 8.6 percent over last year for a total of about 9,800 homeless people.

That’s an alarming figure.

Since the Downtown San Diego Partnership began it’s Ending Homelessness Campaign, it’s found an important measure of success by following the “housing first” model.

President and CEO Kris Michell penned an opinion piece, “Downtown businesses attempting to cover the gaps,” which appeared yesterday in the UT-San Diego. In it, she illustrates downtown’s homeless situation by sharing the story of an Iowa couple with mental health issues who ended up homeless on the streets of San Diego after the theft of their backpack.

In my work with the organization and its homeless advocate partners, I’ve learned a lot about those who end up homeless. The progression to homelessness can be shockingly simple.

Some years ago, my husband lost his wallet and experienced identity theft. It took a couple months to clear up all the aggravating paperwork issues until he was supplied a new driver’s license, credit cards and other forms of identification.

An annoying process, but a necessary one.

Yet, for a lower-functioning adult perhaps facing substance abuse or mental health obstacles, that process might be grossly overwhelming if not virtually impossible to navigate and lead to life on the streets.

But as Kris notes in her piece, ending a person’s homelessness through the “housing first” model greatly reduces both the cost to the taxpayer (as high as $150,000 a year per homeless person) as well as the toll it takes on the homeless person’s quality of life.

In order to deal with this additional work, the Downtown San Diego Partnership expanded its staff to manage homeless outreach, assist the county in casework processing and started a program to involve the public, called Movin’ Home, which accepts donations from the public at seven red parking meter-like stations, as well as private donors, such as San Diego Gas & Electric, Wells Fargo and the Heartland Coalition.

Movin’ Home donations cover the cost of household basics, haircuts and personal identification for interviews, life essentials such as food and hygiene necessities and related costs to send people home.

To get involved in ending chronic homelessness in downtown San Diego, donate to one of the red Movin’ Home donation stations in downtown or mail donations to the Downtown San Diego Partnership Foundation at 401 B Street, Suite 100, San Diego, CA 92101.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Leave a Reply