San Diego

Homelessness Aid Funding Taking Time to Reach Streets

The homeless population is growing by double digits statewide, just as California approved its largest loan yet to finance more housing.

In San Diego, homeless estimates increased by 5 percent from 2016 to 2017, bringing the total on the streets to 9,116.

The increase comes one year after the California legislature passed a bill that would repurpose $2 billion from Proposition 63 funding to house mentally ill who are homeless. That money, however, is tied up in court.

“Absolutely, I’m very disappointed in the stalling because of this lawsuit,” explained Councilmember Chris Ward.

Ward worked to develop the measure that could potentially give San Diego hundreds of millions of dollars in housing money.

“The solution to homelessness is homes. And homes take time to build,” said Stephen Russell, executive director of the San Diego Housing Federation.

This sentiment is felt by CEO of Dreams for Change, Theresa Smith. Dreams for Change is a non-profit that helps homeless San Diegans living in their cars find a safe place to park at night. Smith says she’s noticed an increase in local homelessness recently, and blames it on a lack of affordable and fair market rate housing options.

“We expected when the recession ended, we’d start seeing a decrease in the numbers, but we’ve seen just the opposite,” Smith said.

“Just because the funds are identified doesn’t mean you can roll them out the door the next day, things have to be done thoughtfully and effectively,” Russell said.

Russell is working with the City of San Diego on a local bond measure to raise $900 million in an effort to raise local funds to access some of the state money. He hopes the measure will be on the November ballot.

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