Report by City of San Diego shows progress on the homeless crisis

SAN DIEGO (KUSI) –  Let there be no doubt, the number of homeless people getting help in San Diego is dramatically higher than it’s ever been.  But three years after 20 people dropped dead on the streets from Hepatitus A, a lot has changed for the better.

A new audit from the City of San Diego outlines 12 areas for improvement, including a dedicated stream of money and more effective outreach to the people who need help.

“You know, sending police into the field is not the best way to reach people. There has to be trust. Pushing homeless camps from one place to the next is not working.  We need to reach these people on a personal level to determine what they need,” said Michael McConnell, a homeless advocate and philanthropist.  “You can’t send police in there and expect to build trust.  They clearly serve a purpose in some cases, but it needs to be social workers and volunteers to reach these people on a personal level.”

Like a lot of people in San Diego, McConnell has seen things improve. But like the audit says, he sees a lot of room for more improvement.

“The County did it right in Spring Valley. They got volunteers on the ground to build trust, then moved in with help,” said McConnell.

Given McConnell’s passion for helping the homeless and spending hundreds of thousands of dollars of his own money to do so, you’d think he would favor the ballot issue called Measure C. That’s the measure that’s supposed to raise hotel taxes and create a first ever dedicated fund for the homeless. But he’s not a fan.

“Even as a homeless advocate, it’s deeply flawed.  Unfortunately it’s written so willy-nilly, that there’s very little accountability.  That money could be used for things other than homeless services, it’s written so vaguely and broadly.”

Measure C also includes money for roads and expanding the convention center.  It will appear on the March 3rd ballot.

Even though the city audit has 12 areas of improvement, it had some bright notes: the so called bridge shelters have housed thousands of people,  the safe lots have allowed people to live safely in their cars, the storage shelters allow homeless to store their stuff while they do other things and the Homeless Navigation Center just opened up, which people call a one stop shop for homeless.

Good things have happened, but this is just the beginning.  Despite the weak spots, San Diego has become a model to other cities.  Cities that are just now getting serious about what’s being called the biggest crisis in California today.

Categories: Local San Diego News