City renews homeless housing program

ENCINITAS — Encinitas has renewed a pilot program aimed at housing some of the city’s chronically homeless people and homeless veterans after the program exceeded its expectations. 

The City Council recently approved allocating $107,000 to reauthorize the Opening Doors Project, a partnership between the city and Community Resource Center that housed 61 homeless people — a total of 27 households — in its first year. 

That was two more households than the city’s goal of 25 for the pilot year, one of several benchmarks the program exceeded during the first year. 

“What a success!” Encinitas Mayor Catherine Blakespear said. “The fact that we were able to place 27 households, half of them with kids, into homes when they were living on the street is a tremendous accomplishment. I believe nearly all people want stability and a roof over their head. Together with our community partners we’re changing real people’s lives.”

Originally proposed by former Encinitas Mayor Kristin Gaspar, the program pairs homeless with a housing navigator at the Community Resource Center, who performs a housing assessment and matches them to available housing resources. 

The funds paid for incentives for landlords to rent to families, move-in support, indirect program costs and technical assistance. 

In year one, the CRC performed 123 initial assessments and assigned 69 of those households to the housing navigator. Of those 69 assignments, 18 military veterans were matched to housing resources. 

Of the 27 households the program housed, 13 were single people, 14 were families and five were veterans. 

All of these outcomes met or exceeded the pilot’s goals. 

“This program aligns with the city’s commitment to improve quality of life for all residents in Encinitas, including the homeless,” said Nicole Piano-Jones, city management analyst. “By partnering with a qualified social service group like CRC, we were able to successfully and cost-effectively house those experiencing homelessness in Encinitas, and help them to become more secure, self-sufficient and provide stability for families and children in school. The program is a great investment into the future of Encinitas.”

But the program did have its challenges, including a lack of available housing, high rents in the city and households with challenging job, credit and health situations that required more permanent support services. Also, CRC officials said they needed more bodies to handle the number of homeless who sought out the program.

The city obliged by restructuring the second year funding to allow for housing case managers who will support the navigator by starting the housing assessment process and overseeing connecting homeless households with housing services.  The city also set the goal of families housed in the second year at 32. 

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