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A homeless man sleeps on the overpass near Cottonwood Creek Park on Aug. 9 in Encinitas. The County of San Diego is launching homeless outreach teams to address homelessness in North County. Photo by Jordan P. Ingram
A homeless man sleeps on the overpass near Cottonwood Creek Park on Aug. 9 in Encinitas. The County of San Diego is launching homeless outreach teams to address homelessness in North County. Photo by Jordan P. Ingram
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County launches regional homeless outreach program

REGION – The County of San Diego recently announced the creation of homeless outreach teams made up of social workers and other specialists that will specifically address the needs of homeless individuals in North County cities.

The initiative was announced in a recent press conference by Supervisors Tara Lawson-Remer and Jim Desmond, along with elected city officials representing different North County cities.

As part of the county’s newly adopted Framework to End Homelessness, the new program will encourage collaboration between cities and shift outreach from law enforcement to trained social workers.

“Homelessness is particularly challenging in North County,” Remer said at the press conference. “We have eight cities, and each city has a different plan, different staff and different resources. But starting today, for the first time, we are coordinating outreach across city and county lines so we can get people help and housing faster than ever before. It’s one united, collaborative effort to help the 1,500 people in North County without a home.”

A highlight of the new program is an emphasis on shifting homeless outreach away from law enforcement. According to Remer and Desmond, this will be another way of building trust with homeless individuals.

“Homeless outreach is human outreach,” Remer said. “Too often we don’t look at people experiencing homelessness as people. That has been made clear by the fact that many unhoused individuals do not actually want to use the array of homeless services that we have available. Simply, there’s a lack of trust between social service providers and the people we want to serve.”

The 17-member outreach teams will have 10 social workers to do case management, five specialists from the county Health and Human Services Agency to connect people with various services and two licensed clinical social workers.

“We’ve been pushing for this for quite a while, so it’s a step in the right direction,” Escondido Mayor Paul McNamara said. “We’ve started something that will help us work cooperatively with the county and with the other cities, and I think we’ve come to an agreement that homelessness is a regional issue.”

McNamara added that the program will also work in collaboration with homeless outreach organizations like Interfaith Community Services, which is headquartered in Escondido.

“Interfaith and other similar organizations were key to this process because those organizations are, from a solution point of view, where the rubber meets the road,” McNamara said.

An outreach team will be stationed in Escondido, with another team launching in Oceanside in January 2022.

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