San Diego County Board Votes Unanimously to Create Department for Homeless Services

The new policy abandons efforts that criminalize homelessness and creates greater emphasis on housing and facilities for those experiencing homelessness

San Diego homeless

The San Diego County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously on Tuesday night to create a department of homeless solutions and equitable communities, and adopted guiding principles on addressing homelessness

The new department will streamline and increase services for people experiencing homelessness.

The idea for the Department of Homeless Solution and Equitable Communities was first presented by Supervisor Nathan Fletcher at the State of the County but was heard by the full board for the first time on Tuesday.

“This new county department will streamline service delivery for our unsheltered community, help move people from the streets into a safe place to live and strengthen our collaboration with regional service providers," Fletcher said in a statement released after the vote. "Today is an important step in our ongoing effort to tackle homelessness.”    

According to Fletcher's office, services provided by the county to people experiencing homelessness have been scattered across several agencies and there is a need for a streamlined approach.

"Centralizing our work involving people experiencing homelessness in one department will make us more effective at putting the unsheltered on a path to safe, secure housing and make us a better regional partner," Fletcher said.

Taking this step signifies a renewed commitment to addressing homelessness, not just in the unincorporated areas, but across the region."

Homeless advocate Michael McConnnell saw the proposal as the county's first step toward real change for the homeless community.

"If this is successful -- and it’s going to take all the cities getting on board too and being good partners with the county -- but this is the first time I can remember the county really stepping up and providing regional leadership on this issue and setting some solid guiding principles that are based on evidence and research from across the country," McConnell said.

The new policy will abandon efforts that criminalize homelessness and will create greater emphasis on housing and facilities for those experiencing homelessness, Fletcher said.

The policy establishes a new set of guiding principles, including:

  • Prioritizing equity in all aspects of homelessness prevention and response
  • Ensuring evidence-based, data-driven solutions
  • Committing to a "housing first" approach
  • Offering to support, not criminalize homelessness
  • Trauma-informed and person-centered care
  • Prevention through strategic intervention

Currently, the county has a group to end homeless that supports and administers several programs through grants funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The groups services include programs for homeless veterans, housing opportunities, and the annual point in time count.

"There’s different departments within the county that quite frankly aren’t working well together, leaving a lot of gaps in the system," McConnell said. "And, so that needs to be coordinated much better and to have a department that focuses on bringing those folks together into one seamless system is important."

"‘You need a leader. You need somebody stepping up to lead, and this is the first time I’ve ever seen the county start to take responsibility for this issue. And so, that’s a good sign.”

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