Fifth District Supervisor Jim Desmond recently teamed up with 3rd District Supervisor Terra Lawson-Remer on a proposal they hope will successfully address the homeless problem in North County.
The County has an estimated 22,000 men and women who experience homelessness at some point during the year, with about 8,000 who were counted on one during in 2019.
The COVID-19 pandemic has increased the threat of displacement, evictions and homelessness, especially among poor people. According to the board letter, “The situation is particularly acute in North San Diego County, where eight cities across the region and various service providers each deploy resources and programs within their respective service areas. In response, the elected leaders of these cities have come together to coordinate a regional approach and collaborate with the County to provide a greater level of outreach and support to unhoused individuals and accelerate pathways to stable, affordable, and service-enriched housing.”
The board letter, which was adopted unanimously, calls for a pilot program to deploy “an integrated team that will in partnership with the staff in various cities to increase the level of outreach, assessment and connections to wrap-around services and suitable housing opportunities for those experiencing homelessness. The team will be comprised of a least 10 outreach staff, such as licensed clinical social workers (LCSW) supported by administrative, data analytics and supervisorial staff.”
Escondido Mayor Paul McNamara told The Times-Advocate: “As the chair of the Six North County Cities Homelessness Committee comprised of elected officials and nonprofit related organizations, I think I can speak for all of the membership that we were very pleased with this vote. This vote is part of a bipartisan and regional effort to address homelessness in an effective but compassionate manner. All of the cities recognized that we needed to do something, and for over a year we have worked to find a plan to precent to our two North County Supervisors. Kudos to them for getting it done. We still have more to do, but the good news is that we are moving forward as a team in a cooperative manner.”
The County will deploy staff, “across a consistent geography to develop trust and build relationships with homeless individuals through repeated interactions. The outreach staff will be able to transport clients and will have access to flexible discretionary funds to provide for incidentals such as cloth, food, help obtaining identify cation and short-term motel vouchers as part of the engagement process. This proposal seeks to be collaborative in nature and provides these resources in coordination with cities and service providers to augment and expand the existing network of homeless outreach services.”
Desmond remarked, “We’ve all heard the same political campaign speech, ‘We need to solve homelessness,’ and while it sounds good, that promise which has been made time and time again, usually lacks substance.”
Their joint effort said, Desmond, “looks to make a significant impact to address North County’s homeless population.”
The plan will include setting up office spaces at County sites and through partnerships with local organizations, to use as meeting space for clients and outreach workers. It will consult “key stakeholders” throughout the process of developing the plan, “including local cities, services providers and impacted individuals.”
Greg Anglea, CEO of Escondido-based Interfaith Community Services, which serves the homeless population throughout North County, commented, “This new pilot project was requested by the North County Homeless Ad Hoc Working Group of elected leaders who began working together in late 2019 to create a North County Homeless Action Plan. Chaired by Escondido Mayor Paul McNamara, the Ad Hoc Working Group includes the mayors of Escondido, San Marcos, Vista, Oceanside, Carlsbad and Escondido. Together they identified the need for 10 full-time homeless outreach social workers to help address homelessness throughout North County. Our North County Supervisors Terra Lawson-Remer and Jim Desmond stepped up in a major way to provide County funding, via unanimous approval from the County Board of Supervisors, to launch this pilot project in the year ahead.”
Angela added, “As the non-government co-chair of our North County working group, I whole-heartedly endorse the wisdom of increasing social worker outreach to address homelessness in our communities. Trained mental health specialists will bring a trauma-informed and person-centered approach to each individual experiencing homelessness, and they will be very effective in connecting people to needed shelter, housing, and resources.”