San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria revealed that he would be proposing to increase homelessness services in his new city budget proposal on Monday, outlining how $10 million in new homeless funding by the city would be spent.
Under his homeless budget proposal, a new homeless strategies and solutions department would be created in the city to help consolidate homeless services at the administrative level. This would include hiring a new Deputy Director to help run the department. A large increase of services is also being proposed by the Mayor, including $6.3 million being added to the budget to bring in 300 new temporary beds at shelters, $1 million to expand rapid rehousing programs such as rental assistance and case management, and $1.35 million to increase substance abuse treatment programs, including adding 65 short-term detox beds.
Other increases include $1 million in additional funding to a PATH (People Assisting the Homeless) coordinated outreach program and $300,000 to homelessness workforce training. Funding from the latter would likely increase the budget even more due to a jump in rehousing workers that would be hired as a result.
Mayor Gloria, who had promised to focus on the homeless problem during the 2020 election, said on Monday that he hoped that his budget changes would help end chronic homelessness in the city.
“This is a compassionate, person-centered approach to addressing homelessness,” said Mayor Gloria on Monday. “In total this is more outreach, this is more shelter beds, this is more help for people suffering from addiction, more help for families and individuals who are newly homeless and more workers in the pipeline to help those who are struggling. These investments that we are making are setting the city of San Diego on a path to achieve our ultimate goal, which is ending chronic homelessness.
“Homelessness is a humanitarian crisis, and ending it is my top priority. My budget invests in programs that lead directly to moving our vulnerable neighbors off the streets and into care, shelter and, ultimately, stable homes. It’s time we begin to match the severity of the emergency with the strategies necessary to meaningfully confront it.”
$10 million of a $4.6 billion proposed budget
While well-known for years nationally, San Diego’s homeless crisis was thrust back into the spotlight last month when a drunk driver swerved onto the sidewalk in downtown San Diego and struck several tents, killing three homeless people as a result. According to Mayor Gloria and many homeless advocates, the extra funding is needed to make sure that homeless people can be housed to avoid such fatal accidents in the future.
“We can and we will make progress,” added the Mayor on Monday. “The only way to make progress, though, is by matching the severity of this emergency with strategies necessary to meaningfully confront it. The actions introduced here today are an effort to do just exactly that.”
However, many critics said on Monday that, despite it only being a $10 million bump out of a proposed budget of $4.6 billion, it is still largely reckless due to the city facing a $124 million shortfall due to the after effects of the COVID-19 lockdown.
“We all know that homelessness is an issue, but San Diego lost a lot of incoming revenue due to business closures and other tax revenues slowing down considerably due to the coronavirus,” said Southern California-based fiscal adviser Kyle Trent to the Globe on Monday. “San Diego really needs to make sure that it needs everything it is spending on right now, and bringing in a large increase in homeless funding isn’t the needed thing right now. Socially, yes, it’s needed in the city, but fiscally the city can’t be bringing on new positions or increasing the number of beds the way they are trying to do. They can’t afford to.
“COVID-19 is doing this to every city, and many have temporary halted new funding on similar services. Homelessness is a big problem, but you also need money coming in to pay for those programs. It’s a tough situation.”
The new city budget is due to be decided on in the coming months as the fiscal year is due to end on June 30th.