This week San Diego will take on a new approach to reduce homelessness.
It’s a long process that will start with a simple survey.
“We’ll find out who they are, what different medical illnesses and mental illnesses they have,” said Jeff Graham, Vice President of Redevelopment for the Centre City Development Corporation (CCDC). “We can find out what substance abuse problems they have.”
Monday morning, volunteers began the so-called “Registry Week,” where the roughly 800 homeless men and women who live on the streets of downtown will be surveyed.
After the city reviews the data, housing will be offered to 125 homeless people who face a highest risk for fatality.
“It will be a little studio unit,” said Graham. “It’s nothing fancy, but it has a kitchen and a bathroom. Hopefully it will improve their quality of life and prevent them from dying on the street.”
It’s also an approach that will ease the strain on medical responders and their budget.
“Many of these people take up enormous amounts of resources in the 911 system,” said City Medical Director, Dr. James Dunford. “Police calls, ambulance calls, fire department calls are enormous.”
On Sunday afternoon, dozens of volunteers and employees from local city departments and organizations gathered in downtown for training.
“This is the first time all the right people are in one place,” said Dunford. “This should have been done 10 years ago.”
The program was developed by an organization called “Common Ground,” which helped end homelessness in New York’s Time Square.
Over the years it has successfully reduced homelessness in 30 cities.
The plan is to eventually offer individualized assistance to all homeless in downtown, regardless of whether they’re “high risk” or not. But that process will begin with the survey.
“We need to know, are they youths, seniors or veterans,” asked Graham. “Because there are different funding sources for each one of those pockets of sub-populations.”
Experts agree that housing is key to getting homeless men and women back on track.
“That way they don’t have to worry about where they’re going to sleep the next night,” said Graham. “They can start focusing on their case management and their mental health issues and their medical issues.”
District 4, County Supervisor, Ron Roberts said soon, San Diegans will start noticing a change.
“There will be an absence of a negative thing in downtown,” Roberts said.
By Friday the surveys should be done.
Housing for the 125 high-risk homeless will be offered at the end of this year or in early 2011. Hundreds of additional housing units will also open in about a year and a half. All occupants will have to follow residency rules.
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