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The San Diego Regional Task Force on Homelessness reported a 10% increase in the county's homeless population, according to the latest Point-In-Time Count. Courtesy photo

County supervisors advance ‘street health’ proposal

REGION — The county Board of Supervisors unanimously approved the development of a regional “street health” initiative to help homeless people with behavioral health care, vaccine access and self-sufficiency programs on Tuesday.

Supervisors directed Sarah Aghassi, interim chief administrative officer, to work with the Health and Human Services Agency, street medicine providers, consumers and managed care Medi-Cal plans to develop the program and report back within 90 days.

The HHSA will also seek out funding for the initiative.

Citing the efforts of Father Joe’s Villages to help those living on the street with medical needs, board Chairwoman Nora Vargas said the proposed initiative is a perfect example of “meeting people where they’re at.”

In a statement after the vote, Vargas said the board’s action was “testament to our shared humanity, and our shared commitment to addressing our region*s homelessness crisis.”

“First and foremost, we have to meet the basic human needs of our unhoused population – they aren’t going to find a job or path forward if they are sick, hurt, injured or suffering from severe mental illness,” Vargas said.

During public comment, the proposal received support from Dion Akers, regional government affairs manager for San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria.

“We know there is no silver bullet that will solve this crisis, nor a single one-size-fits all treatment model,” he said.

Several county employees also spoke in favor of the street health initiative.

“Whatever can be done to proactively bring preventive measurements will save lives and save additional costs for (emergency room) visits,” one woman told the board. “Help make the quality of life better for the vulnerable groups.”

Another woman, who said she worked for the HHSA, said she was homeless less than six years ago and still is at risk.

“I want you to take into consideration the other faces of the homeless – it’s me, a 50-year-old grandmother, an employee,” she said.

Josh Bohannan, of Father Joe’s Villages, cited that nonprofit organization’s success with vulnerable residents as an example of street outreach.

Bohannan said the group has helped 54 people find housing, offered medical services to 747 residents and interacted with 2,500 people.

“We really need this program, region-wide,” he added.

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