Team launches challenge to end homelessness

REGION — North County inland cities and nonprofits are banning together through Alliance for Regional Solutions to share data and resources to end area homelessness.

The local project is part of the federal 25 Cities Project supported by the Veterans Association and HUD, which aims to end homelessness for veterans in 25 cities across the U.S. by 2015, including San Diego.

The goal of the North County Community Design Team is to end local veteran and chronic homelessness using the 25 Cities Project model.

“There is a real misconception that our homeless neighbors want to be homeless,” Filipa Rios, North County Community Design Team lead, said.  “No one wants to be homeless.”

The Regional Task Force on the Homeless recorded 1,660 homeless individuals in North County in 2014.

“What is the most unique about our homeless population is that they are scattered and not as concentrated as (San Diego) downtown’s homeless population,” Rios said. “We have a different geography and many live in their cars, on the beaches, in the canyons, and so forth.

“The greatest challenge we face is the lack of affordable housing inventory in North County.”

To solve local homelessness, agencies are asked to collect client data and share available housing resources in a common network.

A regional client assessment and placement system minimizes redundant efforts, identifies clients’ service provider and efficiently directs those in need to services that best fit them.

Sharing housing resources is essential in order to meet clients’ needs.

Greg Anglea, executive director of Interfaith Community Services, said two types of housing are needed. Rental housing provides rapid re-housing and temporary support for recently employed individuals, and is in high need for non-veterans. Subsidized permanent housing supports individuals with significant disabilities.

Anglea said a regional assessment and placement system yields better results in meeting housing needs than agencies addressing homelessness alone.

“It allows us to level the playing field and serve everybody equitably,” Anglea said. “On the flip side it requires organizations to put forth resources. It’s a systems change in which they’re giving up control and moving beyond organization identity and interests to systems interests.”

Working as a region is a big step for cities and nonprofits that are accustom to working within their own operation goals and budgets.

To encourage participation, the North County Community Design Team has posed a 100-day challenge to build an assessment and housing placement system, and permanently house 40 clients within four months.

At the kickoff luncheon on Jan. 14 the cities of Carlsbad and Escondido, and Interfaith Community Services stepped up to lead the challenge. Nonprofits, churches, government officials and concerned residents also attended.

“This is just the beginning,” Anglea said. “We had a very good turnout, 115 people were present.”

The 100-day challenge will formally begin Jan. 23. Participating agencies are asked to name a housing navigator to enter information into the regional placement system, and serve as a point of contact.

Interested individuals are also encouraged to volunteer, including property owners who will rent to program clients at market rate.

Following the 100-day challenge the program will be evaluated and expanded to North County coastal cities.

The long-term payoff is expected to be a final solution to homelessness.

“It is the only way we end homelessness in North County,” Anglea said. “To move beyond ourselves as an organization, and be moved to what we were called to do.”

For more information on the 100-day challenge, contact ganglea@interfaithservices.org or filipa_rios@outlook.com.

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