Homelessness – No Quick Fix

| September 6, 2021 | 0 Comments

This past month, the Mission Hills Business Improvement District (MHBID) was the lead organizer of a forum on homelessness: the cause, effects, and options for addressing this growing issue for San Diego, and all its respective communities.

Present for this event was Mayor Todd Gloria, Councilman Stephen Whitburn, and people from the City and County who are working daily on homelessness.  They include Dijana Beck, chief agency operations for the County of San Diego Office of Homeless Solutions; Brian Gruters, associate director of Outreach, PATH (People Assisting The Homeless); Aisha Daniels, program manager, Mobile Homelessness Resolution Team (MHRT), PATH; Jonathan Herrera, special programs manager & senior policy advisor, Homeless Housing Innovations Division, San Diego Housing Commission; and Captain Shawn Takeuchi, Homeless Outreach Team (HOT), San Diego Police Department.

A shopping cart contains a homeless person’s valuables.

What became obvious is that there is a much more concerted effort between the City and County to address homelessness.  However, there isn’t yet a fully integrated approach. That’s because the people who are homeless represent different types of problems and challenges.

Though Mayor Gloria emphasized that creating housing is the key solution, the source of the problem still exists.  Respectfully, the people who are on the streets are there for different reasons. Some are due to employment (minimal and/or lack of), some are due to mental health issues (including PTSD), some are drug and alcohol dependency related, and some homeless prefer to live on the streets. 

Having been closely aligned over the years with various Alcohol and Drug Recovery programs (ie. Pathfinders, McAllister Institute and Alpha Project), I learned early on that there is no quick fix to people who choose a life of destruction.  I have worked with very successful men and women who succumbed to drug and alcohol to deal with work and life stressors.  Some recovered.  Some didn’t.

I have also worked with various veteran’s group, including Veterans Village of San Diego (VVSD), which has a housing facility on Pacific Highway.  Having hired some of their staff over the years, and assisted with fundraising efforts, I’ve learned that they assist veterans with a variety of issues, including PTSD, other forms of mental health, and drug and alcohol related issues.  Working with this group helped me to see that housing alone can’t fix the problem. It requires the right mental health services and a lot of support.

According to the VVSD mission: “We address unique legal needs of veterans through ongoing legal self-help clinics, veteran oriented seminars, employment, entrepreneurship, and mentorship which empower and improve the lives of veterans and their families.”

They also advocate to help veterans aid and assist each other, and to provide unique, direct programs and services to meet the needs of veterans.

According to Father Joe’s Villages, which was founded by Father Joe Carroll, there are many faces of homelessness: people overcoming substance-use disorder, those living with mental illness, veterans struggling to readjust to civilian life, and families who can’t make ends meet.

If it’s not obvious, there is no “quick fix,” which all of the organizations noted above have shared with me.

Though it is worth acknowledging the collaboration between the City and County to focus on the homeless, we should also point out that sometimes we need to get very serious about the reasons behind homelessness, especially mental health, and substance abuse. 

What I didn’t hear during the forum is how this is being addressed.  So, without appearing grateful for the effort of the individuals and groups working on homelessness, we also need to ask, “How do we integrate the necessary services and programs that should be readily available?”

We should start with the County of San Diego Health & Human Services Department, who has a key role in mental health and drug and rehab programs funded by the County. We need to know what is available and how the existing non-profit organizations, such as VVSD and Father’s Joe Villages, are being incorporated into this overall effort. 

Let’s not forget about the groups that have been in existence for upward of 50 years serving the homeless, and those with special needs.

Thanks to the Mission Hills BID for organizing this event, and to facilitator J Daniel Geddes, co-chair of MH BID’s Homeless Adhoc Committee.

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Category: feature, Government, Housing, Local News

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