Shortly after I began an investigation last month into North County’s homeless epidemic, I came across a key program working to change the way we address the problem in our part of the county.
At issue is the 25 Cities North County Initiative, a relatively new program. Launched in January 2015, the Initiative is managed by the Alliance for Regional Solutions (ARS), a coalition of more than 30 North County nonprofit community based organizations that all work in some aspect with the homeless population.
Specifically, 25 Cities aims to end veteran and chronic homelessness by designing and implementing a coordinated entry system or “coordinated housing assessment and housing placement” (CAHP) system in North County.
Interfaith Community Services, one of the ARS partner organizations, has taken the lead role in implementing the CAHP system in the city of San Diego, as well as here in North County.
Greg Anglea, executive director of Interfaith Community Services, explained to me in an interview that CAHP works to break down the inefficiencies and silo mentality of service providers and agencies in our area by creating a coordinated network of charities, nonprofits, law enforcement and municipalities united towards a common goal of placing homeless individuals into homes.
Said Anglea, “we’re all working together on this.” Resources are prioritized to client needs on a case-by-case basis versus a one-size-fits-all approach.
Through 25 Cities, there are currently five homeless intake sites in North County, with walk-in services available weekdays in Oceanside and Escondido.
The Initiative also works proactively to identify and house homeless individuals on the streets.
An evaluation this spring of a 100-day goal to permanently house 40 individuals/households in Escondido, Vista and Oceanside found mixed results; while targets for client assessments and assistance were exceeded, goals for placing clients into permanent housing fell short.
Still, there are good prospects for future success; Anglea cites a “very strong partnership” with elected officials in North County, and pointed to the support from the cities of Carlsbad and Oceanside, which are allocating subsidized housing vouchers for their efforts.
A regional, coordinated approach to homelessness in North County has precedent; in some respects, 25 Cities builds off the proven effectiveness of the North County winter homeless shelter system, established in 2007 by ARS, which we continue to use today.
Anglea cited two challenges to making further gains: identifying more landlords who are willing to rent to the homeless, and a bigger need for funding for direct services. Monthly rents continue to increase countywide, with low vacancy rates persisting for North County (3.8 percent).
While ARS received $50,000 in seed funding to launch the CAHP system, there is currently no federal funding available.
Compared to the San Diego metro area, Anglea noted that North County’s need for more landlords is similar.
Still, in North County there are fewer emergency shelter options, and fewer resources across a much larger area.
While the homeless population is less visible here, they are more mobile, he added.
For more information about the 25 Cities North County Initiative, including how you can volunteer, donate, or become a landlord participant, contact Greg Anglea at (760) 489-6380 ext. 230.
Vince Vasquez is a policy analyst at an economic think tank based in Torrey Pines. He is a Carlsbad resident.