Understanding housing instability in San Diego County

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An average of 10 San Diego households are evicted every day. Although homeless point-in-time count figures have remained relatively consistent over the past 5 years, thousands of individuals are becoming homeless for the first time each year, according to this report by 2-1-1 San Diego.

The research also shows that of the 3.3 million people residing in San Diego County, approximately 13.3% have incomes below the poverty level and are spending most of their paycheck on rent. As households compete for affordable housing, low- and moderate-income households are falling into homelessness, locally and across the nation.

The San Diego Workforce Partnership reached out to Nicole Blumenfeld, Director of Informatics, at 2-1-1 San Diego to learn more about housing instability in San Diego County.

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What are some common barriers for people facing housing instability? 

The top 5 barriers to finding housing are move-in costs, evictions, violence or safety concernscredit and prior tenant history.  

Can you speak to some of the systemic factors affecting housing instability? 

Equity is another important discussion. For example, African Americans represent roughly 5% of the San Diego County population, yet they represent 20% of households experiencing housing instability—these figures also hold true when looking at the homeless population in San Diego, according to the housing instability report.

All programs working with people in crisis need to be doing something about inequalities, especially in housing.

Where does workforce development fit in?

Workforce development resources, including educational opportunities, are imperative to have earlier upstream. Partnerships across sectors can help connect individuals to programs that can both assist in finding new employment and providing job skills training to increase opportunities for those most at-risk of becoming homeless. 

Earlier identification of populations at-risk can work to prevent more individuals and families from experiencing homelessness. Click To Tweet

What tools are used to identify a household in crisis?  

Social Determinants of Health (SDoH) assessments give us a better understanding of what someone is facing by offering insight into things like the immediacy of the current situation, knowledge and utilization of community resources, and individual barriers and supports.

These assessments are derived from evidence-based tools, where possible. They aid in individual care planning and intervention, measure change overtime, and contribute toward a shared language. A risk score is generated at the completion of each assessment, which plots the result into one of six risk categories for that area. Each assessment is built with an algorithm to plot clients on a “crisis to thriving” scale.

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Are prevention services working? 

2-1-1 San Diego completed an initial analysis of a sample population of clients who were unstably housed at some point, who subsequently were either still housed or who became homeless. This analysis showed that housing outcomes for people who were unstably housed and received at least one referral to a prevention or financial assistance program showed a higher success rate at remaining housed (79% remained housed) compared to the group that was not referred to these types of services (69% remained housed).

This data signals positive outcomes for prevention services and highlights the need for broader investment into prevention activities. Every statistic is a story. Predictive analytics and strategic partnerships can make a huge impact for those on the brink of homelessness.

Increasing awareness of 2-1-1 and the Community Information Exchange (CIE)—an ecosystem comprised of multidisciplinary network partners that use a shared language, a resource database, and an integrated technology platform to deliver enhanced community care planning—is a key recommendation. Along with expanding services county-wide, early identification (and rapid assistance), addressing inequalities and investing in prevention.

Flexible spending pools, capacity-building, research, infrastructure, innovation and promising practices are some special considerations for funders. Policymakers need to continue discussions around targeting specific populations, while always working to move upstream. All strategies and solutions aimed at these issues should strive to use an equity lens and framework.

For more information, contact Camey Christenson at cchristenson@211sandiego.org