San Diego

Mayor Focuses on Homelessness in 2019 State of the City Address

Mayor Kevin Faulconer opened his fifth State of the City address by drawing parallels between the bold and groundbreaking ideas brought forth during San Diego's inception nearly 250 years ago and the spirited, progressive ideas the city needs today.

Faulconer declared the city must tackle its housing crisis, lift its communities and protect its environment. He suggested the city work together as one to accomplish those feats, and invited San Diegans to look toward Washington D.C. if they want to see the alternative.

"Federal leaders are abandoning their responsibilities and have literally shut down the U.S. government because they can't find common ground," the mayor said.

To see an example of the effects of a divided government, Faulconer pointed to the migrant families being dropped off in the city street corners.

Faulconer said the big hearts of San Diegans are reflected in how the city is working to make sure the humanitarian crisis at the border doesn't turn into a San Diego crisis, "but it's time for the federal government to do its job," he said.

Addressing the homelessness crisis in the city, Faulconer said San Diego must break away from the old way of doing things.

Echoing points made in his 2018 address, the mayor mentioned that San Diego is full of people who support more services for the homeless but don't want them in their backyard.

"I am not going to tell a veteran sleeping in a park or a veteran living out of their car that they should wait for the government to do another study while they spend another night in the cold," Faulconer said.

The mayor criticized City Hall for waiting for more housing to be built before taking steps toward fixing the homelessness problem.

Faulconer says his approach to fixing the problem is "housing first, but not housing only."

He credited his storage center and safe parking programs for helping hundreds of homeless San Diegans attend school, look for jobs and get treatment. According to the mayor, his landlord assistance program has helped more than 2,000 who were once homeless find new housing.

He also said that the three bridge shelters opened last year have helped more than 500 people find permanent housing.

Faulconer said officials from other big cities in California and across the southwestern United States have visited San Diego and have implemented the same programs in their cities.

The governor has been watching, too, Faulconer said.

"The governor's new budget released last week smartly includes statewide funding for programs that San Diego has spearheaded over the last year like temporary shelters and housing navigation centers," he said.

The major takeaway from the mayor's 2018 speech was the announcement of a central intake center for the homeless at 14th Street and Imperial Avenue. On Tuesday, Faulconer said that center would open this year.

Faulconer said the center would serve as a universal entrance point where citizens can access homeless services. He said the center would "Be the starting point for each person's journey to permanent housing."

The mayor declared that elected leaders and their constituents must agree to affordable housing development in every city council district.

Faulconer also mentioned the need for increased mental health services for the homeless community, citing 1 in 3 bridge shelter residents who self-identified as having mental health challenges.

He said more help is needed from the county so the psychiatric services can be offered to the homeless.

"The city is taking a new approach, the state is stepping up, now it's time for the county to do the same," he said.

Faulconer said more hospital beds and more specialists in the field are needed to help solve the county's "mental health crisis."

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