San Diego community joins forces to reduce regional homelessness

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Homelessness does not discriminate. Individuals who make up our region’s population come from a diverse background of age, race, circumstances and experiences. Some are veterans, others are under 18. Some have no family in the area, others navigate housing insecurity as a household. For some, there is addiction and disability, but one thing remains certain for all: They are fighting for survival on the streets of San Diego.

About the Regional Task Force on the Homeless

A leader in efforts to solve one of the city’s largest problems, the Regional Task Force on the Homeless (RTFH) provides comprehensive data and trusted analysis that enables the entire community to identify, implement and support efforts that most effectively prevent and alleviate homelessness in San Diego. RTFH is an integrated array of stakeholders, serving as the community’s resource for understanding who homeless individuals are, what is being done and what community organizations can do to help.

Last year, the task force formally merged with the regional Continuum of Care (CoC)—a consortium of representatives tasked with strategic planning and coordination of resources to strengthen their collective impact. Leveraging the comprehensive resources of the CoC, the new RTFH has a singular goal: end homelessness in San Diego.

Point-In-Time Count

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A key role the RTFH plays is to conduct the annual Point-In-Time (PIT) count of individuals who are homeless. But it’s not just a headcount. The PIT count is an important annual event that assesses homelessness (on the street and in shelters) throughout San Diego County: how many, who, where, why and other critical demographics are gathered. This information enables local agencies to implement services and to find solutions that enable individuals and families to become housed again.

Rapid Rehousing Employment Pilot

One common thing experienced by homeless individuals is lived experience of mental illness. “In our annual Point-in-Time Count effort, we have 40 percent of homeless individuals self-report having mental health issues,” says RTFH Project Specialist Brandon Torres. “We know that a major barrier for San Diego homeless that are trying to obtain employment is untreated serious mental illness.”

In 2016, only 9 percent of those who access mental health services through the state programs were employed, in contrast with over 65.7 percent of those without a disability who were employed, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (2017).

To close this gap, the San Diego Workforce Partnership (SDWP) is working with RTFH and the City of San Diego on the Rapid Rehousing Employment Pilot. Through the initiative, SDWP uses the evidence-based Individual Placement and Support (IPS) model—which incorporates employment goals as treatment for people with mental illness and other barriers to employment—and acts as a liaison between participants and employers with only one criterion: the participant wants to work.

Homeless Veteran

The Homeless Rapid Employment Initiative is a unique blend of services that use innovation and collaboration to serve a specially filtered population of San Diego’s homeless individuals. By combining services with SDWP’s Breaking Barriers San Diego program and activating the IPS model and strong community partnerships, this initiative is designed to tackle homelessness on a grander scale. With over 30 years of data, IPS—now adapted to serve those experiencing homelessness in the region—will push participants one step closer to self-sufficiency and economic mobility.

Why Individual Placement and Support?

Depending on a person’s needs and wants, the Homeless Rapid Employment Initiative offers customized job training, job readiness and the confidence and skills needed to work within just 90 days. Rapid employment placement and unlimited support ensure client success and set these services apart from traditional vocational services.

Placement rates in the IPS model across the globe for decades show that with personalized, client-driven goals, individuals retain employment 50 percent longer than traditional vocational services. Through IPS, homeless individuals in San Diego will be able to receive the intensive support necessary, which will serve as an essential part of their recovery, reduce the sense of alienation from the community and improve their overall quality of life.

Linking Housing and Workforce Development

Traditional rapid rehousing programs focus on housing only, with just 25 percent of those exiting rapid rehousing programs being employed. Work being a proven indicator of success for participants, the Homeless Rapid Employment Initiative was developed to improve San Diego’s performance outcomes in providing housing stability for those enrolled in rapid rehousing programs. It does so by providing targeted employment support through SDWP—who will provide intensive job training and quality work opportunities to sustain permanent housing.

To learn more about San Diego’s homeless demographic, view the current San Diego Homeless Dashboard.

For more information on the Homeless Rapid Employment initiative, contact KristenWalker@workforce.org.