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Cities Community Encinitas

‘Opening Doors’ homeless program a major success

ENCINITAS — The doors are opening for the homeless in Encinitas, thanks to a Community Resource Center program championed by the city that is aimed at finding permanent housing for the homeless.

In its second year, the resource center’s “Opening Doors” program found permanent housing for 48 homeless Encinitas households — or 117 people who once lived on the streets.

As a result, the City Council in June re-authorized the program for a third year and awarded the Encinitas-based nonprofit $107,000 to fund the work.

The City Council voted unanimously and enthusiastically to authorize the third year, with each of the council members wanting to make or second the motion to do so.

“We’re not the biggest organization, but I really know our successes have come as a result of our case managers who get to know and build trusting relationships with these (homeless) individuals,” said Rebecca Palmer, the chief program director at the resource center, which has the mission of eliminating homelessness and protecting victims of domestic violence.

“We welcome people and accept people for where they are in the process, and if they fall off the plan, our managers say, ‘Well, let’s start where you were last successful.’ They don’t blame or shame people, and sometimes it simply comes down to challenging people and saying, ‘You can do this.'”

Originally proposed by former Encinitas Mayor Kristin Gaspar in 2016, 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.

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

During the pilot year, the center worked with Interfaith Community Services of Escondido, but has solely taken on the project in years two and three.

In year two, Community Resource Center worked with 167 homeless households, completing assessments on 68 of them. About 60 households were assigned to a housing navigator and 48 were placed into permanent housing.

Of the 48 households, 37 were single persons, seven were families and four were two-adult households.

Of those placed, 14 were housed in Encinitas, with the rest moving to apartment complexes in Oceanside, San Marcos and San Diego (five households). Three families moved out of the region entirely.

Palmer said that center has partnered with Community Housing Works, which develops affordable housing complexes, to help find housing for some of its senior homeless at their Mission Cove Apartments in Oceanside.

When asked why it is successful when other programs are not, Palmer said there is “no magic” involved, just a lot of hard work by the city and staff.

“The staff is committed to turning over every stone to help people,” Palmer said. “And they are committed to continuing to work with them even after they have housing to make sure the housing is sustainable, which is part of the key. Otherwise, they wind up back on the streets again.”

The city has again set 32 as the minimum number of housing placements for the program’s third year, and 70 as the number of households assigned to a housing manager.

1 comment

Erin Thomas July 27, 2018 at 2:06 pm

This is soooo awesome! Congratulations to all involved. Glad to see these non-profit ventures backed by the city and other entities like ICS and CHW. It takes a village to make a strong community and to meet people where they are. Case management and follow up is critical to success. Great article sharing concrete numbers. I used to live in SD and now in Riverside where Housing First is being inplemented. I would be curious to know if there is any kind of jobs program or drug/alcohol rehab programs wrapped around this effort. Good job, Encinitas!

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