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Community Action Plan – Activity Accomplishments

Foundational Strategies

  1. Implement a systems-level approach to homelessness planning. Build capacity and infrastructure around city-level governance, strategic thinking and systems change to support the articulated goals.
  2. Create a client-centered homeless assistance system. Create a homeless assistance system that centers around clients and values client feedback in system design and resource allocation.
  3. Decrease inflow through increase of prevention and diversion. Work with other regional systems to prevent homelessness when possible and divert people from the system altogether.
  4. Improve the performance of the existing system. Revew current practices, performance and metrics to move from project-level thinking to system-level thinking.
  5. Increase the production of/access to permanent solutions. Identify low-income and affordable housing options to increase opportunities to provide greater access to permanent housing.
Systems Level ApproachClient Centered SystemsPrevention & DiversionImprove PerformancePermanent Solutions

Implement a Systems Level Approach to Homelessness Planning

Create and implement an interagency steering structure to guide Community Action Plan implementation
The Community Action Plan recommends the creation of a governance structure that supports cross-agency collaboration, systems-level thinking, and accountability. Under this guidance, a City-Wide Leadership Council and Interagency Implementation Team were created. A project manager was also identified for Action Plan implementation.
SDHC to Publish New System Performance Dashboard
Update, Second Quarter 2021

In August 2021, SDHC will launch a new, publicly available System Performance Dashboard. SDHC’s Homeless Housing Innovations Division oversees SDHC- and City of San Diego-funded homeless shelters and housing and services contracts, which includes extensive monthly data collection and analysis of key performance metrics and demographics. The goal of this new dashboard is to provide information to the public about how the City of San Diego- and SDHC-funded programs are performing as a system. The dashboard will be available on SDHC’s website for policy makers, community stakeholders and the general public to have access to information that details how the different types of homelessness interventions are performing compared with industry-standard, best-practice metrics. One of the guiding principles detailed in the Action Plan is to make data-driven decisions and create transparency. These dashboards support that principle. The system performance dashboard will be available in mid-August on SDHC’s website at https://www.sdhc.org/homelessness-solutions/

Work with the County and other funders to anticipate shifts in funding and ensure partner agencies are prepared for those changes
Regular work groups and planning meetings consisting of key staff from lead agencies are occurring.  They work to anticipate shifts in funding and ensure that agencies are collaborating and preparing for funding opportunities to support efforts to address homelessness within the City and the region. Work groups consist of representatives from the City of San Diego, County of San Diego, RTFH and SDHC.

Accomplishments include:

  • Collaboration around state Homeless Emergency Aid Program (HEAP) and Homeless Housing, Assistance and Prevention Program (HHAP) funding: A plan has been developed for the end of HEAP Round 1 funding, and meetings have been ongoing to coordinate and collaborate on HHAP funding.
  • An MOA was executed between the County, City, RTFH and SDHC to utilize the San Diego Convention Center as a City of San Diego homelessness response to COVID-19 through Operation Shelter to Home.
  • Hotel Acquisition Project – A collaboration between the City, County, SDHC, and RTFH, this project involved SDHC’s purchase in 2020 of two extended-stay hotel properties, which created 332 permanent affordable rental housing units with supportive services. These units can accommodate as many as 400 individuals who previously experienced homelessness.
  • Update, Second Quarter 2021: A Work Group has been developed among the County, City, RTFH and SDHC to align funding priorities as appropriate and leverage existing and future funding to advance the Action Plan’s goals. This also includes a new collaborative effort to focus resources on people experiencing Substance Use Disorder challenges and develop innovative programs specifically to serve this population more effectively.
Implement the Neighborhood-Based Coordinated Street Outreach Program

The Housing Authority of the City of San Diego and the City Council approved the Neighborhood-Based Coordinated Street Outreach Program on October 27, 2020. The San Diego Housing Commission (SDHC) contracts with People Assisting the Homeless (PATH) San Diego to operate the Coordinated Street Outreach Program. SDHC also recruited an Outreach Coordinator to provide direction and support to this new program and the existing City-funded outreach teams. The initiative aligns with one of the Key Items for Consideration identified in the Action Plan, as well as the Foundational Strategies to implement a systems-level approach and create a client-centered homeless assistance system.

Using a neighborhood-based approach, the Coordinated Street Outreach Program strategically engages people experiencing homelessness to divert them from the homeless response system and facilitate permanent housing placements.

The program consists of two main service elements:

  • A Rapid Response Team that focuses in areas with known concentrations of individuals experiencing unsheltered homelessness and provide immediate intervention and problem-solving resources while working to improve the individual’s sense of safety and helping to meet their basic needs.
  • A Mobile Homelessness Response Team that provides intensive street-based case management, prioritizing interactions with individuals who are among the City’s most vulnerable. This team also works to identify individuals who may already be connected to a housing resource and are on a localized list developed in collaboration with the Regional Task Force on the Homeless (RTFH).

Update, Second Quarter 2021

The City of San Diego’s Fiscal Year 2022 budget, which Mayor Todd Gloria proposed and the City Council approved on June 14, 2021, includes $1 million to expand the Coordinated Street Outreach Program. This expansion will support more than 13 additional full-time equivalent staff positions.

Accelerated Activity: City of San Diego Homelessness Response Center

The Homelessness Response Center (HRC) implements a streamlined, coordinated, client-centric, City of San Diego Homelessness Crisis Response System. The program’s objective is to provide system navigation services that coordinate all activities to move someone from homelessness to housed. The program is aligned with the five foundational strategies of the Community Action Plan and is informed by the lessons learned and successes of Operation Shelter to Home.

The HRC opened in May 2021 following the conclusion of Operation Shelter to Home at the Convention Center.

Create a Communications Work Group and Plan

Update, Second Quarter 2021

The Community Action Plan encourages transparent communication to the public and community stakeholders about the successes, challenges and progress toward the Plan’s goals. A communications work group consisting of members of each of the Action Plan’s implementing agencies has been tasked with developing a communications strategy for the Leadership Council’s and Implementation Team’s consideration that would support transparency, accountability and public engagement and raise awareness of the Action Plan and homelessness issues in the City of San Diego.

Shared Housing Learning Collaborative

Update, Second Quarter 2021

Shared Housing is an effective tool in areas, such as San Diego, that have extremely limited vacancies and unit availability. The expansion of Shared Housing is one critical pathway to finding a home for the thousands of individuals experiencing homelessness in San Diego.

RTFH promoted and participated in community trainings on Shared Housing, supported by Funders Together to End Homelessness San Diego (FTEHSD), and hosted a Shared Housing Forum with approximately 150 attendees, representing housing and service providers, including the youth system.

RTFH is coordinating efforts in San Diego to increase system capacity and promote the use of the Shared Housing model. Critical to this work is partnering with individuals with lived experience to participate in a leadership role with the RTFH and other partners. RTFH has worked with John Brady and Voices of Our City Choir to include individuals with lived experience.

In addition, RTFH has funded the participation of San Diego service providers in a national Shared Housing learning collaborative with the Shared Housing Institute.  The learning collaborative is 12 weeks, spanning May 2021 through August 2021.

The RTFH also published a Shared Housing white paper that can serve as a foundation for local understanding of what Shared Housing is and further explain key components. More information about the Shared Housing efforts, including system-level guides and tools for partners to use, can be found here.

Emergency Housing Vouchers

Update, Second Quarter 2021

On May 5, 2021, as part of the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) of 2021, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) issued a PIH Notice 2021-15 Emergency Housing Vouchers (EHV)-Operating Requirements. The vouchers are intended to help San Diegans who are experiencing homelessness; are at risk of experiencing homelessness; are fleeing or attempting to flee domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, stalking or human trafficking; or who recently experienced homelessness and for whom rental assistance will help prevent their homelessness or a high risk of housing instability. SDHC received 480 federal Emergency Housing Vouchers, which took effect on July 1, 2021.

SDHC is collaborating with the RTFH, as the lead agency for the regional Continuum of Care, to identify qualifying households for these vouchers and SDHC will administer the vouchers, in accordance with HUD requirements.

SDHC and the RTFH are working together on the appropriate referral pathways through the Coordinated Entry System (CES) to refer eligible households and to identify support resources available to households who are enrolled and utilize an Emergency Housing Voucher through SDHC.

Please visit HUD’s website at www.hud.gov/ehv for additional information on the Emergency Housing Voucher program.

Create a Client-Centered Homeless Assistance System

Open More Bridge Shelter Beds
Alpha Project for the Homeless was selected through a competitive procurement process to operate the 4th bridge shelter, located at 1710 Imperial Avenue, San Diego.

The Golden Hall (GH) Bridge Shelter was expanded to 288 beds and incorporated beds specifically for TAY population. GH downstairs expansion was approved on 10/6 for up to 280-324 additional beds.

Homelessness Program for Engaged Educational Resources (PEER)

Homelessness PEER is a collaboration between SDHC and San Diego City College. It provides homelessness services-specific education through a two-unit course, “Human Services 75,” to develop the local workforce needed for programs and services that help individuals experiencing homelessness. The program also provides an academic counselor and career coach to work with the students on securing volunteer, internship or employment opportunities in organizations that work with people experiencing homelessness. A video overview of the program is available here.

Update, Second Quarter 2021

In Fiscal Year 2022, the program will be expanded to include:

  • Offering the Human Services 75 course twice each semester, for potential to enroll approximately 80 students per semester
  • Increasing staffing to:
    • Focus on additional outreach to community and other colleges about the course offering
    • Continue outreach and networking to the homelessness services agencies to fill positions with qualified staff
    • Expand career counseling
    • Provide additional job placement services, including expanding career fairs and other events to foster employment opportunities.

Students will learn about national and regional policy, local programming and practical application, including having opportunities to engage with national experts, local front-line staff and service provider leadership. Students will also receive assistance from dedicated career counselors to work with students on career planning and job placement opportunities within local homelessness services.

Engage with Advisory Groups

The Community Action Plan recommends creating feedback mechanisms and seeking input from stakeholders by utilizing Advisory Groups to convene on specific issues. Participation will be informal and voluntary, and frequency will be determined on an ad hoc basis to achieve Action Plan goals and solicit input and expertise across a broad sector of service users and stakeholders.

The RTFH makes regular effort to engage with youth through the Youth Action Board, and RTFH and SDHC participate in the Youth Homelessness Demonstration Project (YHDP) committee meetings. Engagement with Advisory Groups of Persons with Lived Experience is also an ongoing focus, and members of the Implementation Team communicate with members of the HEAL network and Voices of Dignity and attend meetings when invited and deemed appropriate by existing advocacy groups.

A Provider Advisory Group and a Front-Line Staff Advisory Group were formed to create further opportunities for feedback specific to the activities and efforts that support the Community Action Plan’s goals. The groups are scheduled to meet quarterly.

RTFH Ad Hoc Committee on Addressing Homelessness Among Black San Diegans Established

In July 2020, the RTFH Board approved the creation of the Ad Hoc Committee on Addressing Homelessness Among Black San Diegans. According to the 2020 Point-In-Time count, Black persons accounted for 21 percent of the unsheltered population and 30 percent of the sheltered population, while only accounting for 5.5 percent of the general population in San Diego County. The purpose of the Ad Hoc Committee is to explore the factors contributing to disparities among Black persons experiencing homelessness, listen and engage in extensive public dialogue with community stakeholders, and develop a series of recommendations that the CoC can take to better address the impacts of systemic racism and its effects within the homelessness crisis response system.

The Ad Hoc Committee includes people with lived experience, leaders in homelessness services organizations, public sector staff, faith-based representatives and advocates.

Update, Second Quarter 2021

RTFH has partnered with the National Alliance to End Homelessness’s (NAEH) Racial Equity Network, which discussed with the Ad Hoc Committee NAEH’s racial equity toolkit to support addressing racial disparities. RTFH also received approval from HUD to contract with Cornell University certified and national experts Michele Williams and Darlene Mathews to provide support and technical assistance to the Ad Hoc Committee and other identified stakeholders. For more information on the Ad Hoc Committee, click here.

Reduce negative impacts of enforcement and criminal history on people experiencing homelessness and any barrier that may come up toward obtaining housing

Update, Second Quarter 2021

In March 2021 Mayor Gloria directed changes to policies regarding the City’s response to homeless encampments and the belongings of people experiencing unsheltered homelessness. These changes provide a more person-centered approach to environmental services cleanings. Some of the changes include suspension of cleanups and enforcement during inclement weather, suspension of cleanups at night, and easier means to retrieve personal items removed during cleanups.

For more information on these and additional changes, click here.

Analyze data and identify potential opportunities to impact the contributing factors related to disproportionate representation of certain populations regarding entry into homelessness

Update, Second Quarter 2021

According to the 2020 Point-In-Time count, Black persons accounted for 21 percent of the unsheltered population and 30 percent of the sheltered population, while only accounting for 5.5 percent of the general population in San Diego County. The Leadership Council and Implementation Team identified this activity as an area of focus for 2021. Below are activities that related to this item.

  • In July 2020 the RTFH Board approved the creation of the Ad Hoc Committee on Addressing Homelessness Among Black San Diegans. The purpose of the Ad Hoc Committee is to explore the factors contributing to disparities among Black persons experiencing homelessness, listen and engage in extensive public dialogue with community stakeholders, and to develop a series of recommendations that the CoC can take to better address the impacts of systemic racism and its effects within the homelessness crisis response system. For more information on the Ad Hoc Committee, click on the activity “RTFH Ad Hoc Committee on Addressing Homelessness Among Black San Diegans Established” in this dashboard.

Furthermore, the 2020 Point in Time Count found that of those who were 55 and older and completed the unsheltered survey, 43 percent reported being homeless for the first time, 54 percent were sleeping on the street or sidewalk, 55 percent reported a physical disability, and 58 percent have been homeless for less than one year in the past three years. Additionally, 12 percent of those 55 or older are chronically homeless and unsheltered, and nearly 1 in 4 are female. While chronological age demonstrates many older adults are living without a home, the rigors of homelessness also are known to prematurely age people as well.

  • In April 2021 the RTFH Board approved the establishment of the Ad Hoc Committee on Older Adults Experiencing Homelessness. The purpose of the committee is to focus on the needs of older adults experiencing homelessness, specifically reviewing data on the prevalence of homelessness among seniors, best practices to meet older adults’ shelter and housing needs, and education to homelessness service providers about the unique needs of older adults. The committee also will make recommendations about how the region’s homelessness response system can reduce homelessness among older adults.
Implement an automated client-feedback program to improve system performance

Update, Second Quarter 2021

SDHC is implementing an automated client-feedback system that will collect both quantitative and qualitative information that can provide system-level performance feedback. The survey questions are being developed through a community engagement process with people with lived experience to ensure the survey has a client-centered approach. The automated system will encourage honest participation because it includes a layer of anonymity in the different ways that a person can provide input. The system will be implemented across multiple programs in late summer 2021 and will inform program and system-level trends, service gaps or changes that may be needed.

Accelerated Activity: Improvements in Coordinated Entry
Through Operation Shelter to Home, improvements were actioned to the Coordinated Entry System. In order to achieve accelerated referrals for coordinated entry system housing resources, the RTFH created by-name-lists by cohort to begin working across lists rather than down them. This approach was further supported by the Housing Commission’s Housing Navigation Team, which took a system navigation approach to manage the resident’s path to housing at an accelerated rate. System navigation is a client-centered service model that supports individuals experiencing homelessness throughout all stages of their pathway to housing by case-conferencing with multiple parties, and problem solving to reduce barriers and accelerate housing placement.
Accelerated Activity: Client-centered services provided in Operation Shelter to Home
Clients were provided services in a client-focused manner in Operation Shelter to Home. A client-focused Housing Navigation Team was implemented and is working with housing resource providers across the system to address client needs and progress them to a successful housing exit. Additionally, services were brought on site to be more accessible to clients, including public health nurses, health screenings, access to mental health and medical health services, and crisis response teams. For example, City of San Diego librarians were located on site to provide ancillary resources such as support to access income/ benefits.
Accelerated Activity: Future state of bridge shelters
Operation Shelter to Home provided an opportunity to understand who is being served and what their needs are. The City, County and SDHC are working jointly to identify and secure resources to meet the needs of clients to provide a continuity of services after Operation Shelter to Home is demobilized.
Accelerated Activity: Identify gaps in service options for Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH) programs with a Housing First approach, and work with the County to identify potential resources to fill program gaps
The San Diego County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved the FY 2020-21 budget, which includes $5.4 million for the County to fund essential supportive services for individuals who reside at permanent supportive housing locations.

Decrease Inflow Through Increase of Prevention and Diversion

Expand Family Reunification Program
The Family Reunification Program targets individuals and families experiencing homelessness in the City and provides one-way, one-time relocation and follow-up services to reunify those individuals and families with family or other support systems in a different part of the continental United States. In FY 2020, the Program was allocated an additional $618,000, bringing the total program budget from $394,000 to $1,012,000. The Program added five additional staff members to support the expansion, and now includes a number of geographic areas outside the original focus of Downtown San Diego, including Bankers Hill, Balboa Park, Hillcrest, Barrio Logan, Golden Hill, Sherman Heights, Midway, and Ocean Beach.
Preserving Affordable Housing in the City of San Diego – Report

On June 2, 2020, SDHC presented the report to the City Council, which provides an analysis of rental housing in the City of San Diego and recommends 10 strategies to help keep thousands of rental housing units affordable for low-income families.

On September 2, 2020, SDHC announced that more than $46 million is available from federal and local funds SDHC administers to create and preserve affordable rental housing units. The funding includes $21.6 million set aside, for the first time, specifically to preserve or extend the affordability of existing rental housing units, which was a significant need identified in the report.

On October 27, 2020, the City Council approved seven actions to implement a strategy for affordable housing preservation in the City of San Diego, which SDHC presented for consideration, based on SDHC’s report, “Preserving Affordable Housing in the City of San Diego.” More information on the seven recommendations adopted by the City Council is available here. To read SDHC’s affordable housing preservation report, click here.

City of San Diego Single Room Occupancy Ordinance Enhancements

SDHC is proposing several important updates to City’s SRO Ordinance with chief purpose to incentivize the preservation or replacement of this important housing source in the City, place long-term covenants on units to ensure affordability to lower income populations, improve relocation assistance to vulnerable residents, and enhance the City’s administration of the hotels.

Recommendations were presented to the Land Use and Housing Committee in the summer of 2020. SDHC then held stakeholder meetings in the fall of 2020.

On November 12, 2020, the City Council’s Land Use and Housing Committee approved SDHC-proposed amendments to the City of San Diego’s Single-Room Occupancy (SRO) Hotel Regulations ordinance.

The Committee asked the City Attorney to work with SDHC and the Committee consultant to draft a revised SRO Hotel ordinance, incorporating the proposed amendments, that SDHC will bring forward for consideration by the City Council.

SDHC conducted video webinars with stakeholders on September 15, 2020, and May 17, 2021, and updated drafts of the proposed ordinance were posted on SDHC’s website. For more information about the proposed updates to the City’s SRO ordinance, including links to recordings of the video webinars, please visit https://www.sdhc.org/housing-opportunities/single-room-occupancy-units/

Diversion Learning Collaborative by RTFH
Diversion has been increasingly recognized as a promising practice to assist individuals and families who are seeking homeless assistance to engage in a discussion and determine other safe and available housing options. Starting in March 2019, RTFH coordinated a Diversion training and learning collaborative. This included providing a two-day training for front line staff including outreach workers, case managers, and shelter staff every other month. The trainings were provided by the Cleveland Mediation Center, a nationally recognized expert in diversion, and between March 2019 and January 2020, a total of 240 individuals attended the trainings. Simultaneously, the RTFH invited selected community leaders to participate in a train-the-trainer model which included a once a month training for leaders to be able to train others in Diversion practices. A total of 35 staff from various agencies, including 7 RTFH staff, participated in the train-the-trainer series.

In addition to the trainings and train-the-trainer series with the Cleveland Mediation Center, the RTFH also hosted two Diversion 101 trainings – in October 2019 and November 2019 with over 30 individuals total attending the two sessions.

The RTFH was scheduled to resume the two-day trainings in March of 2020 but because of COVID-19, the trainings were put on hold. Since the start of the health pandemic, the RTFH has not offered any Diversion trainings, however RTFH staff are in discussion on best ways to begin the training series with an online training platform.

Universal Diversion Screening Tool
A universal diversion screening tool was implemented through 211 and Community Information Exchange (CIE)
Utilize flexible funding pool to meet client needs
The City of San Diego awarded funds to the San Diego Housing Commission (SDHC) to implement programs that eliminate immediate barriers to permanent housing for sheltered individuals experiencing homelessness. SDHC created two programs to meet the varying needs of the shelter population including a Shallow Subsidy Pilot Program (SSPP) and a Flexible Funding Pool Program (FLEX). Both programs work with shelter providers and individuals experiencing homelessness to eliminate immediate barriers to permanent housing through financial assistance and light-touch case management. SDHC received $2 million from the City’s Homeless Emergency Aid Program allocation.

RTFH entered into a contract with Brilliant Corners, a nationally recognized non-profit, to administer a regional Flexible Housing Pool (FHP) across San Diego County. FHP is an innovative approach for securing rental units in the private market that allows for a portfolio of available units in real time dedicated to the homeless system. Initial funding for the FHP includes $1.8 million from RTHF’s Homeless Emergency Aid Program allocation, $400,000 from the County of San Diego’s California Emergency Solutions and Housing Program allocation, and private funds through Funders Together to end Homelessness San Diego.

There is ongoing coordination between these programs, and they are being implemented in alignment.

Accelerated Prevention Activity: COVID-19 Emergency Rental Assistance Program

SDHC administered the City of San Diego COVID-19 Emergency Rental Assistance Program, which helped families with low income in the City of San Diego who experienced a financial hardship due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The program provided one-time rental assistance of up to $4,000 per qualifying household to help pay past-due and/or upcoming rent to assist with preventing housing displacement. The program assisted more than 3,700 households with one-time emergency rental assistance.

Update, Second Quarter 2021

SDHC currently administers the City of San Diego COVID-19 Housing Stability Assistance Program. In March 2021, the program’s online application launched. The program helps pay past-due, unpaid rent and utilities for individuals and families with low income in the City of San Diego who experienced a financial hardship due to the pandemic.  On June 28, 2021, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed into law Assembly Bill (AB) 832, which allows the COVID-19 Housing Stability Assistance Program and similar programs statewide to now pay 100 percent of the rent obligations for qualifying low-income households. Previous State law limited assistance payments to 80 percent of past-due rent and 25 percent of upcoming rent. SDHC advocated for payments at the 100 percent level in letters and meetings in April, May and June. With this new law, SDHC anticipates fully expending all of the Coronavirus Relief Funds previously allocated to the Housing Stability Assistance Program.  As of July 12, 2021, SDHC has disbursed $41,529,636.02 to help 5,863 qualifying applicants. The application remains open at covidassistance.sdhc.org, and additional applications are submitted each day.

Improve the Performance of the Existing System

Enhance technical resources for providers that incentivizes and supports capacity building

San Diego homelessness service providers experience capacity challenges, including limited staff and training resources. To support the funders, providers and community in successfully implementing services and achieving a more collective impact, RTFH, SDHC and the County have partnered to fund and support a series of trainings on best practices and emerging models. Additionally, RTFH and its partners have worked with national experts to bring service providers together to better coordinate and establish standards of practice through community Learning Collaboratives focused on outreach, Rapid Rehousing (RRH) and Diversion. This continued support is critical to the success of the providers and their ability to provide services effectively.

Additional ongoing capacity building activities include a Housing-Focused Shelter initiative and a Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH) Partnership Collaborative. The Housing-Focused Shelter initiative   utilizes the expertise of Iain De Jong, a nationally recognized expert and founder of OrgCode Consulting provide intensive training and support on enhancing best practices on operating a housing-focused shelter program.

Update, Second Quarter 2021

SDHC launched a PSH Partnership Collaborative in June 2021. The collaborative, implemented by SDHC and facilitated by LeSar Development Consultants, works with SDHC stakeholders—including PSH service providers, property managers, and developers—to obtain feedback and input and review existing processes to inform PSH best practices. The collaborative focuses on reviewing client-centered practices and alignment with the Housing First model, strengthening efforts around knowledge sharing and capacity building, and identifying opportunities for streamlining that benefit all stakeholders.

SDHC also partnered with San Diego City College to launch the Homelessness Program for Engaged Educational Resources (PEER). The program provides homelessness services-specific education through a two-unit course, “Human Services 75,” to develop the local workforce needed for programs and services that help individuals experiencing homelessness. For more information on Homelessness PEER, please click on the PEER program activity in this dashboard.

Adopt Unsheltered and Encampment Policy Guidelines
On January 16, 2020, the RTFH Board adopted a series of policy guidelines to address unsheltered homelessness and encampments. The guidance is intended to influence decision making, funding, and activities of local government, homelessness services providers, and other stakeholders on the best ways to assist those living without shelter. The adopted guidelines are based on national best practices and local community input. They include a shared vision and approach, including using a Housing First orientation, promoting services over enforcement, and addressing racial disparities within the unsheltered population. Additional guidelines focused on promoting a person-centered, housing-focused street outreach model, as well as using a clearance with support framework to address encampments of individuals experiencing homelessness. The policy was supported by various regional entities, and a critical relationship with law enforcement was strengthened, as the San Diego Police Chief’s and Sherriff’s Association supported the unsheltered policy guidelines. The policy can be viewed here.
SDHC HOUSING-FIRST Programs enhancements

SDHC’s homelessness action plan, HOUSING FIRST – SAN DIEGO, consists of programs that serve people in the City of San Diego who are at imminent risk of or are experiencing homelessness. In Fiscal Year 2020 (July 1, 2019 – June 30, 2020), SDHC utilized Homeless Emergency Aid Program (HEAP) funding to enhance its HOUSING FIRST – SAN DIEGO programs to address gaps in services identified in the community and to better meet client needs. HEAP was established in 2018 to provide direct assistance to California’s homeless Continuums of Care (CoCs) and large cities to address the homelessness crisis throughout the state. The following outlines enhancements made to HOUSING FIRST – SAN DIEGO programs:

  • SDHC’s Landlord Engagement and Assistance Program (LEAP) provides incentives and benefits to landlords who rent to San Diegans experiencing homelessness, as well as housing location and financial assistance for tenants to pay security deposits and application fees. LEAP continues to make advances to the program to make it easier for individuals experiencing homelessness, landlords and service providers, and to expedite the provision of services. These advances can be viewed under the “Permanent Solutions” tab.
  • SDHC’s Homelessness Prevention & Diversion (PD) Program serves people who are at imminent risk of homelessness or newly and recently experience homelessness. PD continues to seek ways to ensure residents within the City as well as providers are familiar with the services available and to work toward expediency in service provision. PD joined 211’s Community Information Exchange (CIE), a network of 102 providers from a variety of sectors like homelessness, health care and the justice system.
  • SDHC’s Homelessness PD Program regularly assesses the ongoing needs of residents in the City and as a result, launched three new programs: Shallow Subsidy Pilot Program to serve seniors on fixed incomes, Diversion Extension Pilot Program to provide expanded financial assistance and case management services to people who are newly and recently homeless, and the Prevention Extension Pilot Program to provide expanded financial assistance and case management services to people who are at imminent risk of homelessness. The programs were created to meet a specific unmet need in the community.
Outreach Standards and Practices

Over the last two years, RTFH has been working with Iain De Jong, a nationally recognized expert and founder of OrgCode Consulting, to develop an enhanced set of standards for street outreach services. Starting in the summer of 2019, OrgCode began working with a diverse set of stakeholders including SDHC, the City and the County to understand current outreach practices, listen to key stakeholders, , and conduct initial outreach trainings. The Outreach Standards serve as a guiding framework for how coordinated outreach occurs throughout the region. Included in the Outreach Standards is the establishment of regional coordination entities to work with all outreach teams throughout the region, regardless of funding source, to ensure a comprehensive outreach effort. RTFH finalized the Street Outreach Standards in January 2021 and has been working with its key partners to support the implementation of the Street Outreach Standards.

The investment in street outreach will assist the region in ensuring the availability of appropriately trained outreach workers whose efforts are dedicated to helping people experiencing homelessness access permanent housing.  Mobile outreach technology will enhance coordination of regional outreach efforts and deployment of outreach workers to the areas of highest need.

Standards and Practices around Rapid Rehousing (RRH)
Over the last two years, the RTFH has been working with Michelle Valdez, a nationally recognized expert, on convening an RRH learning collaborative and drafting RRH standards of practice. In fall 2019, RTFH convened a local learning collaborative with various RRH providers, with SDHC as a key partner in supporting  the effort.  Michelle Valdez facilitated the learning collaborative and met with RRH providers to better understand current RRH practices, identify gaps and needs, and for RRH providers to learn from each other and share strategies that are working and address challenges. The RRH learning collaborative was suspended due to COVID-19, and the group reconvened in September 2020 for the first time since the pandemic started. Michelle Valdez has continued to work with RTFH, SDHC, the County and local stakeholders on the RRH standards of practice. RTFH was successful in finalizing the RRH Standards, released in February 2021. Ms. Valdez continues to work with stakeholders to support the community in implementing the RRH Standards.
Streamline Regulations for Affordable Housing Development
Streamlined Regulations for Companion Units: The City streamlined regulations to make it easier and more affordable to permit “granny flats,” and other companion units, which resulted in a 375 percent spike in applications.

The City updated the affordable, sustainable, infill development program to eliminate fees for projects that are building 100 percent affordable housing in the City.

Permanent Supportive Housing By-Right: The City updated the municipal code to allow for a streamlined process to construct housing with accompanying supportive services for San Diegans experiencing homelessness.

Transitional Housing By-Right: Included in the 12th Code update, this eliminates burdensome regulations placed on developers to encourage more projects by right, which are designed to help formerly homeless individuals.

Affordable Housing Density Bonuses: The added incentives go beyond what the current state law mandates to help spur the development of affordable housing for seniors, military personnel, former foster youth, disabled veterans, and homeless individuals.

Zoning Updates: This update provides 14 amendments to the Land Development Code that would streamline the approval process for future affordable housing projects.

Incentives for building more units: These added incentives go beyond what the current state law mandates to help spur the development of affordable housing for seniors, military personnel, former foster youth, disabled veterans, and homeless individuals.

Changes in enforcement of ordinances and creation of diversion opportunities for persons experiencing homelessness

In recent years, the City of San Diego has changed the way it interacts with individuals experiencing homelessness. This includes a new Coordinated Street Outreach Program that was approved by the City Council in October 2020, the establishment of the San Diego Police Department’s Neighborhood Policing Division, and improvements to the Homeless Court program.

The new Coordinated Outreach Program, operated and staffed by an experienced homelessness service provider, incorporates a neighborhood-specific approach with proactive contacts with residents, business owners, and civic organizations. It builds upon a 2018 pilot program that started in the Mid-City area. initiative. The new program is currently being implemented.

The program consists of two main service elements:

  • A Rapid Response Team that focuses in areas with known concentrations of individuals experiencing unsheltered homelessness and provides immediate intervention and problem-solving resources while working to improve the individual’s sense of safety and helping to meet their basic needs.
  • A Mobile Homelessness Response Team that provides intensive street-based case management, prioritizing interactions with individuals who are among the City’s most vulnerable. This team also works to identify individuals who may already be connected to a housing resource and are on a localized list developed in collaboration with the Regional Task Force on the Homeless (RTFH).

In addition, the San Diego Police Department established its Neighborhood Policing Division to help serve as a bridge between communities with concerns about quality-of-life issues, including homelessness-related issues, and individuals experiencing homelessness who need social services. The division includes the non-enforcement-focused Homeless Outreach Team.

The City’s enhancements to the Homeless Court program make it available to a larger group of individuals and allow for resolution of parking violations, as well as other outstanding criminal matters.

The City and SDPD also participate in a variety of programs that offer treatment and alternatives to and diversion away from the criminal justice system.

Update, Second Quarter 2021

The City of San Diego’s Fiscal Year 2022 budget, which Mayor Todd Gloria proposed and the City Council approved on June 14, 2021, includes $1 million to expand the Coordinated Street Outreach Program. This expansion will support more than 13 additional full-time equivalent staff positions.

In March 2021 Mayor Gloria also directed changes to policies regarding the City’s response to homeless encampments and the belongings of people experiencing unsheltered homelessness. These changes provide a more person-centered approach to environmental services cleanings. Some of the changes include suspension of cleanups and enforcement during inclement weather, suspension of cleanups at night, and easier means to retrieve personal items removed during cleanups.

For more information on these and additional changes, click here.

Harm Reduction Program

Update, Second Quarter 2021

The Community Action Plan’s Leadership Council, tasked an ad hoc working group composed of City, County, RTFH and SDHC staff to discuss the variety of new funding opportunities coming forward at both a state and local level that could support the city’s and region’s homelessness efforts, and identify potential opportunities for the Leadership Council’s consideration. A new strategy was developed to address the immediate and long-term challenges facing unsheltered individuals that aligns with the Action Plan and is consistent with widely accepted best practices.

A multi-phased approach launched in June 2021. Phase 1 consists of a month-long outreach effort that involved outreach workers, County Public Health nurses, eligibility and social workers from the County Office of Homeless Solutions and Equitable Communities, and Federally Qualified Health Centers in the downtown city core.  This outreach campaign is supported by a phased expansion of capacity at four shelters for people experiencing homelessness.

Phase 2 consists of a transformative approach to addressing homelessness that pairs outreach and engagement with care-coordination services and low-barrier access to housing with the goal of improving client wellness and stability. Community Harm Reduction Teams (C-HRT) will use evidence-based practices to engage people with highly complex and acute needs who are experiencing homelessness and are at increased risk of harm due to substance use and mental health conditions.

The program incorporates two components:

  1. C-HRT will engage individuals experiencing homelessness with substance use and co-occurring conditions in a concentrate geographic area. They will provide ongoing care-coordination services, low-barrier harm-reduction services, referrals to primary care and behavioral health services, medication management, transportation, and bridge housing that includes on-site wraparound services with links to permanent supportive housing.
  2. Bridge housing, including short-term beds and Safe Haven housing, will be available consistent with harm-reduction practices, where clients can be connected to permanent supportive housing.

The County of San Diego and the City of San Diego will dedicate American Rescue Plan Act funds to this critical effort.

Built for Zero Initiative

Update, Second Quarter 2021

RTFH and its partners, including SDHC, have signed onto a national initiative known as Built for Zero, led by Community Solutions. The action boosts the City’s Community Action Plan and supports the momentum to end Veteran and Youth homelessness.

Built for Zero is a proven method that uses data to change how local homelessness response systems work and the impact they can achieve. The data provide a real-time number of veterans experiencing homelessness, help craft strategies to connect all veterans with proper support, prioritize community resources, and regularly measure progress. The result is more tailored solutions for individuals and a clearer picture of the system as a whole.

A Leadership Team and Improvement Team have been developed. The Leadership Team is tasked with providing leadership and policy guidance on the Built for Zero initiative. The Improvement Team is tasked with supporting the Built for Zero model. This team meets regularly to review data and system needs to reach and end veteran homelessness.

More information on the Built for Zero initiative can be found here.

Ongoing coordination with the County to improve system performance
Successful coordination with the County occurred with Operation Shelter to Home, and the County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved the $5.4 million in funding for essential supportive services for individuals who will reside at the new permanent housing programs being implemented through the hotel acquisitions the Council and Housing Authority approved on October 13, 2020.
Accelerated Activity: VASH Voucher utilization improvements
Operation Shelter to Home provided an opportunity to improve the utilization of Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (VASH) vouchers. Through coordination with local, regional, and federal leaders, including leaders from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and operational staff, barriers around how the VASH program historically operated were addressed. This led to a dramatically higher utilization rate of VASH vouchers.
Accelerated Activity: POFA Voucher utilization improvements
Operation Shelter to Home provided an opportunity to work with the County to improve the utilization of Project One For All (POFA) vouchers. POFA provides intensive wraparound services, including housing to individuals experiencing homelessness with serious mental illness. The County contracted with Mental Health Systems (MHS) to provide services on-site at the Convention Center to actively identify individuals that may be eligible for POFA vouchers, In addition SDHC staff worked closely with MHS, contracted POFA service providers and BHS leadership to reduce barriers to process and increase voucher utilization.

Increase the Production of/Access to Permanent Solutions

Identify currently funded projects in pipeline and occupancy timeline

Update, Second Quarter 2021

A pipeline and occupancy timeline was developed to identify currently funded permanent supportive housing (PSH) units. The pipeline reporting includes information on PSH that has completed and been occupied since the Action Plan analysis was conducted; PSH that is newly under construction/financing; and the number of PSH units still needed to meet the Action Plan goals. This reporting will help inform decisions around development goals outlined in the Action Plan. The pipeline data can be found here.

Identify funding opportunities for additional projects

Update, Second Quarter 2021

SDHC’s Policy Department closely monitors legislative activities, including upcoming funding opportunities, and provides updates to the SDHC Board of Commissioners at the Boards regular meetings.

A joint working group consisting of members from the RTFH, County, City, and SDHC also coordinate on a regular basis to track funding opportunities for the region.

Work with community partners to identify potential land/property for development

Update, Second Quarter 2021

San Diego has an extremely expensive and competitive housing market. The ability to provide landlord incentives to secure units is critical and will help the region achieve goals of addressing Veteran and Youth homelessness. The Action Plan identified that private rental market needed to provide 20 percent of the necessary housing inventory. As part of SDHC’s HOUSING FIRST – SAN DIEGO initiative, SDHC implemented a robust Landlord Engagement and Assistance Program (LEAP) to meet this need within the City of San Diego. LEAP has experienced strong success securing private-market units and building strong relationships with landlords in the City of San Diego.

Recognizing this is still a need for the rest of the San Diego region, RTFH included the creation of a regional Flexible Housing Pool (FHP) to operate within the broader region as part of the 2019 and 2020 Work Plan. RTFH partnered with Funders Together to End Homelessness San Diego and the County to establish the FHP and in July 2020 entered into a contract with Brilliant Corners to operate a Flexible Housing Pool. The first-year goal was to place 140 households into permanent housing through the FHP.

Establish City Housing Goals to Complement Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA) Allocation
Establishing housing goals by community planning area will complement RHNA allocations by incentivizing housing construction in communities across the City, measuring the effectiveness of City policies and programs developed to address the housing deficit, and tracking progress towards the established goal of creating mixed income communities where housing is available to all income levels and for vulnerable populations.
Enhancements to SDHC Landlord Engagement and Assistance Program

SDHC’s Landlord Engagement and Assistance Program (LEAP) provides incentives and benefits to landlords who rent to San Diegans experiencing homelessness, as well as housing location and financial assistance for tenants to pay security deposits and application fees. In addition to recruiting and retaining landlords through relationship-building, problem-solving and incentives, LEAP also provides one-time financial assistance to clients to remove immediate barriers to housing. These can include application fees, security deposits and the Landlord Contingency Fund. LEAP services have been expanded for landlords and clients, and access to the program for referring agencies has been streamlined.

  • Streamlining efforts – assessed and identified areas for automation to ensure efficient and smooth transactions with landlords, promote expediency between collaborating agencies, and reduce administrative requirements;
  • Communications/Outreach Strategies – continue to create and implement strategies to engage with landlords. For example, in April 2020, former Mayor Kevin Faulconer called upon local landlords to sign up for LEAP and rent open units to San Diegans experiencing homelessness.
  • Target Population Expanded – analyzed needs of population to make revisions to previous target population and now includes veterans at imminent risk of homelessness in addition to anyone experiencing homelessness in the City.
  • Building upon Partnerships – working with community providers (housing service providers) to leverage housing search and placement services throughout the community.
Notice of Funding Availability released for more Permanent Supportive Housing and affordable housing
SDHC released a Notice of Funding Availability, or NOFA, for permanent supportive housing and affordable housing developments. The NOFA includes $25 million in capital funds for permanent supportive housing and affordable housing development, and for the first time, also includes $21.6 million set aside specifically to preserve or extend the affordability of existing rental housing units. This is a preliminary step toward addressing a significant need identified in the “Preserving Affordable Housing in the City of San Diego” report.
Accelerated Activity: Additional Family Unification Program (FUP) Vouchers allocated for Transitional-Age Youth (TAY) population
SDHC was awarded 75 additional federal FUP vouchers, which help reunite children with their families and assist youth exiting foster care who experience homelessness or are at risk of homelessness. SDHC committed as many of the 75 additional FUP vouchers as needed for the TAY population at the Convention Center.
Accelerated Activity: Hotel/Motel Acquisition Project

Under the leadership of then-Mayor Kevin L. Faulconer; then-Councilmember Chris Ward, who currently serves in the state Assembly; and SDHC President & CEO Richard C. Gentry, and with City Council approval, SDHC purchased two hotels on November 25, 2020, to create 332 permanent affordable rental housing units with supportive services that can accommodate as many as 400 individuals experiencing homelessness in the City of San Diego. Residents began moving into these properties on December 11, 2020. Funds from the State’s Homekey Program, the City of San Diego, SDHC, and a loan from Chase Bank made the purchase of these hotels possible. 

Accelerated Activity: Mayor’s Call to Action to Landlords
During the first month of Operation Shelter to Home, the Mayor at the time, Kevin Faulconer, called on landlords to participate in SDHC’s Landlord Engagement and Assistance Program to help house individuals experiencing homelessness transition out of the shelter at the Convention Center. This call to action resulted in 21 new landlords that wanted to engage to provide private market housing units for individuals experiencing homelessness.