NEW SHAMROCK: The County of San Diego and City of San Diego earned a shamrock for their support of Urban Street Angels to add 20 new immediately-available beds for youth experiencing homelessness. The County provided funds to cover construction and capital costs to make these beds possible, and the cost per bed to do so was economical. It was a solid investment. The City of San Diego, through the San Diego Housing Commission, is providing funding to operate the beds, meaning Urban Street Angels can provide supportive services and staff to help youth not only move off the streets, but also keep them off the streets by connecting them to education, employment, and housing opportunities to completely improve the trajectory of their lives. Maximization of the asset occupied by Urban Street Angels and this effective use of government dollars to add urgently-needed shelter beds for youth is exactly what should be done time and again throughout the County to reduce homelessness. And it should be done at scale so that significantly more than 20 youth can move off the streets once and for good.
SHAMROCK: County of San Diego’s funding for shelters & the Cities who pursued it. San Diego County’s commitment to make $10 million available to all 18 cities throughout San Diego County to increase shelters provided much-needed funds to add urgently-needed beds. The cities of San Diego, Oceanside, and Vista pursued and secured these funds because of their plans to add immediately available beds. Additionally, because the County of San Diego made an underutilized parking lot available in the Midway District, a 150-bed mental health bridge shelter was opened in September of this year. Similarly, the city of Oceanside is converting a shuttered high school into a shelter. Activating underutilized government properties as these jurisdictions are doing is critical, cost-effective, and timely, and other cities and elected officials should follow suit.
SHIPWRECK: City of San Diego’s record-setting unsheltered homelessness. Since 2012, the Downtown San Diego Partnership has conducted a monthly count of unsheltered homeless individuals. During six of the last ten months, the count has reached new record highs, including an all-time high of 1,704 in November of 2022. Additionally, the count of homeless individuals on the streets of downtown has exceeded 1,000 people for 18 out of the last 19 months. The last time their count exceeded 1,000 people in a month was December of 2017, just ahead of the Hepatitis-A outbreak and crisis, which resulted in the deaths of 20 San Diegans. The sharp and ongoing increases in unsheltered homelessness in the heart of San Diego County is entirely unacceptable and has resulted in a public health and public safety crises. Downtown is arguably the epicenter of tourism, business, conventions, civic events and other activities and reducing homelessness and criminal behavior in this area is imperative for a myriad of reasons. A record-high alone is a shipwreck; record-high numbers in six of the last ten months is a tragedy and catastrophe of epic proportions. This sharp increase in unsheltered homelessness and subsequent illegal and dangerous activity has created daily unsafe and harmful circumstances for those who work, live or visit downtown. For example, the Youth Assistance Coalition is located downtown and aids hundreds of homeless youth every year who are trying to overcome homelessness. Instead, the youth they serve have been put in harm’s way due to limited public safety and sharp increases in unsheltered homelessness and criminal behavior immediately surrounding its building.