Council allocates $14M in state funds for homeless

The San Diego City Council agreed to allocate $14.1 million in state funds to help homeless people Tuesday, but is spending the money in a significantly different way than proposed by Mayor Kevin Faulconer.

The one-time allocation is from the state’s Homeless Emergency Aid Program. Faulconer had proposed using $6 million of the money on three large tented structures known as bridge shelters, which house about 700 homeless people. The council voted unanimously, with member Lorie Zapf absent, to instead allocate just $1.6 million to the shelter program and to spend more for homeless services and housing.

Under state guidelines, the money can be used for services, rental assistance or subsidies and capital improvements. At least 5 percent must be used for youth services, and no more than 5 percent can be spent on administration costs.

In Faulconer’s plan presented Tuesday by Keely Halsey, the mayor’s chief of homeless strategies and housing, $4.5 million would have been used for continued expenses at the three shelters and $1.6 million would be used to deconstruct and relocate the bridge shelter Father Joe’s Villages operates for women and families.

The Father Joe’s tent opened January 2017 in a parking lot on the nonprofit’s property in downtown San Diego, but it is expected to come down next March to make way for housing units planned on the site. Money allocated Tuesday will pay for the move to a new site, which has not yet been identified.

Under services, the mayor had proposed allocating $4.6 million, and the council agreed to spend $5.9 million.

The mayor’s plan also had called for $2 million for rental assistance or subsidies, and the council increased the allocation to $5.2 million to create a flexible spending pool for housing and to fund rapid re-housing and programs to encourage landlords to take in homeless people.

Youth programs will receive about $706,000, and overall administration costs will be capped at the same amount in accordance with the state guidelines.

Councilman Chris Ward, chair of the city’s Select Committee on the Homeless and chair of the Regional Task Force on the Homeless, presented the alternate allocation plan that was adopted by the council.

Ward noted that the state is calling for the money to be used on new or existing programs that have proven to be effective, and he said reallocating the money for services and housing was the best way to do that.

“Our neighborhoods are really stressed and they’re really hungry for new solutions,” he said. “This is going to be a strong foundation to try to make more of a difference for those experiencing homelessness.”

Ward said the state will monitor how the money is used locally, and spending the grant on the most-effective programs could help the city get more state dollars in the future.

The $5.9 million allocated for services will expand homeless outreach teams, continue and expand storage sites for homeless people’s belongings and create more safe-parking lots. The money also will help fund a criminal diversion pilot program called Prosecution and Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion Services and expand a family reunification program that now only exists downtown.

Halsey said while presenting the plan that some requests for changes were expected, but the mayor would continue to be an advocate for homeless programs and funding. After the vote, she said the mayor’s office was comfortable with the changes.

Ward thanked her and the mayor’s effort in helping secure the state funds, which are part of a $500 million pool being allocated to agencies and 11 largest California cities.

The San Diego Regional Task Force on the Homeless is receiving $18.8 million from the Homeless Emergency Aid Program.

gary.warth@sduniontribune.com

Twitter: @GaryWarthUT

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