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Monday, January 24, 2022

San Diego County Supervisors Endorse Homelessness Framework

SAN DIEGO – The San Diego County Board of Stewards unanimously approved on November 1 a long-term plan to tackle the growing homelessness crisis, called the Eradication of Homelessness Framework.

According to the Health and Human Services Agency (HHSA), the framework aims to provide a people-centered approach to ensure “creating culturally sensitive services and programs to meet the needs of vulnerable populations” and to provide a sustainable approach to housing sustainability through diverse financial investments, among other things.

Nick Maccione, director of HHSA, said the structure “will enable us to take a new, focused approach.”

Observer Terra Lawson-Roemer said the concept is long overdue.

“We cannot solve the problem of homelessness without a long-term strategy,” she said, adding that recent statistics show that approximately 40 percent of inmates in county prisons were homeless at the time of arrest.

“This is an opportunity to turn the corner of this egregious story of the criminalization of poverty,” said Lawson-Roemer. “This is really a time when we need to seriously and strategically channel our tax dollars where they should be spent.”

Her colleague Jim Desmond supported the plan, but stressed that unincorporated areas should not be a dumping ground for the homeless.

Desmond also called for more effective drug addiction treatments, including incentives for those looking to get well.

“We kind of went from one extreme of the war on drugs to the other extreme when drug addicts live on the streets,” Desmond said. “We have to find something in between.”

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According to him, if someone is hit by a car, paramedics immediately come and help this person. But if residents see someone screaming in the bushes or defecating in the street, they either ignore or accept it, “and I think we are better than that.”

A “shelter first” policy allows people to continue their addiction, and shelters should not be a revolving door, Desmond added.

Chairman Nathan Fletcher said he was encouraged by the new structure, but reminded Desmond that in September 2020, the previous board voted against a proposed housing project in La Mesa.

According to Fletcher, the framework’s programs will be a real challenge. “We’re all tired of buzzwords, but rubber meets the road when you vote,” he added.

Desmond objected that he voted against the La Mesa project because it was “stuffed down our throats” and that the board had learned a lesson about working with the community.

Until immediate spending data is available, the district will seek government funding and will continue to use funds from the US Rescue Plan Act for services such as housing counseling, eviction prevention, and direct cash assistance.

To follow

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