Credit: Jose Rafael Uno
County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher and Mayor Kevin L. Faulconer, along with other regional leaders, Monday urged the Board of Supervisors to approve as part of its budget $5.4 million to fund behavioral health at new permanent supportive housing projects.
The group — which also included San Diego City Councilman Chris Ward, chair of the Regional Task Force on the Homeless (RTFH), and San Diego Housing Commission (SDHC) Executive Vice President Jeff Davis — unveiled a strategy to provide intensive behavioral health and care coordination services on-site to support up to 400 new units at upcoming hotel housing projects.
The board is scheduled to meet Tuesday to have a final discussion and vote on its $6.4 billion fiscal year 2020-21 budget.
Starting in April, the city and county of San Diego teamed up with the RTFH and the housing commission to provide shelter and services to nearly 1,200 people experiencing homelessness with Operation Shelter to Home at the San Diego Convention Center. The county’s Health and Human Services Agency has provided on-site behavioral health and care coordination services at the operation, expanding on the services provided at the city’s bridge shelters.
Now, the organizations are working to replicate and build on the same coordinated care model outside the shelter setting.
According to the group, these types of services are critical to stabilizing individuals so that they can stay in permanent housing. In a survey conducted by the SDHC of clients at Operation Shelter to Home, nearly 70% of clients required permanent supportive housing level of services or higher for success.
“The county can tackle the debilitating cycle of homelessness by making behavioral health and care coordination services more readily available,” Fletcher said. “Redirecting $5.4 million toward mental health and substance misuse treatment is a better way to use the funds, reduce the reliance on a broken crisis-care model, and ensure people’s needs are being met. I urge my colleagues to join me on Tuesday in supporting this approach.”
Faulconer and Ward have been working with housing commission on transition plans for the individuals staying at the convention center. Earlier this month, the commission’s board authorized SDHC to submit applications to the state for “Project Homekey” grant funds for two or more properties.
Through the Homekey initiative, California has made $600 million in grant funds available statewide to purchase and rehabilitate hotels and convert them into interim or permanent housing.
“By converting hotels into hundreds of permanent homes, the city and county of San Diego have an opportunity to continue to lead the state in creating new solutions to reduce homelessness,” Faulconer said. “It’s critical that when we have keys in hand for these units, we also have the services in place to support them, and the county’s vote Tuesday can ensure that happens.”
If the Board of Supervisors approves the $5.4 million, SDHC will be able to pair the services to clients placed at the new supportive housing units.
“(The) $5.4 million in behavioral health and care coordination services will give struggling San Diegans the security and peace of mind that a new home is a permanent home,” Ward said. “I join Supervisor Fletcher in calling on his colleagues to approve this funding to keep homeless San Diegans safe and healthy from the threats of COVID-19.”
The majority of the $5.4 million will be used for two years of behavioral health services for the housing projects, the group said. The funding also will be available to support behavioral health services at other new housing projects throughout the county.
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