An intensive, month-long effort to meet houseless San Diegans living on the streets of downtown in hopes of getting them shelter and on a path to a better life launched Monday, Mayor Todd Gloria announced.
Thousands of houseless San Diegans call the streets their home as they claim numerous spots on downtown sidewalks as their own with sleeping bags and tents. In an effort to connect these residents with housing and services, Gloria and San Diego City Councilmember Sean Elo-Rivera will mark the beginning of a new outreach initiative.
Coordinated by the San Diego Housing Commission, outreach workers from PATH (People Assisting the Homeless), the Downtown San Diego Partnership, Father Joe’s Villages and the Alpha Project will fan out across downtown to inform unsheltered residents of resources available to them.
They’ll be offered shelter and the teams will work to identify what individual services each unhoused participant needs to help them get connected with such resources. The ultimate goal is to get them on a path to permanent housing.
Outreach team members admitted that it isn't always easy getting a houseless individual off the streets. With reassurance and consistency in asking if they would like to be placed in a shelter, though, numerous individuals end up taking them up on the offer.
Hanan Scrapper, who works with PATH, said the patience is always worth it after seeing those individuals realize that they could be on a path to a life off the streets.
"Oh, it's amazing -- to really see their face and to see their happiness," Scrapper told NBC 7. "And then, that self-doubt, right? Like, they didn't think it could happen for them or to them. So that's really remarkable. The baby steps we take before even leading up to housing, when that hope is starting to happen, it's really just a remarkable thing. And then they're safe and they're home."
Earlier in June, the San Diego City Council approved the mayor’s $4.6 billion budget for fiscal year 2022, which includes $10 million for the fight against homelessness and funding to support the new Homelessness Strategies Department.
“How can we, in a city, state and country as wealthy as ours, leave so many people unsheltered?” Gloria said. “And why would we do that, when we know it actually costs us more to do that? And lastly, how can you look at these individuals sleeping on our streets and think that that's acceptable?”
The mayor added that now that COVID-19 restrictions like social distancing have been lifted, another 300 beds have been made available at local homeless shelters.
Gloria, Elo-Rivera and outreach workers who will take part in the initiative will discuss the effort in a press conference scheduled for 8 a.m. Monday.