IVN News

Homelessness in San Diego: Never Seen It This Bad

I’ve been working on homeless issues for more than 30 years in San Diego and I can honestly say I’ve never seen the problem as bad as it is right now.

Depending on the study, San Diego has either the 3rd or 4th highest homeless population in the country and yet, with a viable solution at our fingertips, we continue to stub our toe on the way to solve this issue.

The political leadership in America’s Finest City needs to understand how close the solution is, and act accordingly.

During the Susan Golding administration in the mid-1990’s, I was appointed to the coalition that crafted a focused plan that would have solved this issue. That plan, still viable today, would have done two very important things:

  • Create a central intake facility where every homeless person in the downtown area would be assessed, admitted, and connected with appropriate care.
  • A Central Intake Facility would create much needed relief for communities that have been most impacted by the issue for years.  A challenge that our city council have worked hard to address.

The Central Intake Facility is critical to solving this crisis; it became the focal point of Rudolph Giuliani’s successful homeless outreach in New York City while he was mayor. In fact, without a central intake facility, we will not be able to solve the homeless issue in Downtown San Diego.  There must be a starting point for services.

The federal government is also changing its tune on homelessness.  They are no longer funding the transitional housing model.  Instead, the government is funding successful models that work such as rapid rehousing and permanent supportive housing.  Alpha Project has taken the lead in implementing these models and has championed both locally.

The federal government’s decision makes it all the more vital that we have a Central Intake Facility. Through continuous outreach and engagement Alpha Project and our partner agencies would meet individuals who are street homeless and transport them to the facility. The facility would offer a clean, safe and low barrier environment where individuals would be assessed using HUD approved/Best Practice tools to identify needs and connect them to services.  

Our homeless population suffers from mental illness, addiction, trauma, and chronic diseases (at times terminal).  Alpha Project Casa Raphael, Hospice for the Homeless, Alpha Square and all of our other programs were opened to offer life changing and lifesaving care.  We are here to help people improve their quality of life, to have dignity, to be empowered and self-sufficient.  Our community will not stand by and watch our homeless brothers and sisters die on the streets.  Alpha Project is dedicated to help people find a pathway to a more meaningful life.

I appreciate the media having August 17 as Homeless Awareness Day in San Diego as we try once and for all to solve this problem.

To that end, I would encourage the Mayor, City Councilmembers, and County Board of Supervisors to have the courage to examine and enact the focused plan that I and other community leaders put forward decades ago. It is the best course to finally giving our homeless population a real chance for a better life.

Bob McElroy

President, Alpha Project

Photo Credit: Photographee.eu / shutterstock.com