The Coast News Group

Encinitas launches a pilot program to end veteran homelessness

ENCINITAS — The Community Resource Center is partnering with Interfaith Community Services to launch a one-year pilot program to end veteran homelessness in Encinitas.

The city program’s one-year goal is to find permanent housing for 25 homeless veterans, and develop a model to continue service.

The pilot program will replicate the nationwide 25 Cities Program that has had success in ending veteran homelessness within a year in some cities. Efforts bring together stakeholders to share resources and help solve the problem.

A key component of the 25 Cities program is a shared assessment tool to pinpoint services an individual or family needs and track assistance they receive, which can range from a small loan to long-term assistance.

Another aspect is where housing navigators help to place clients in permanent housing, and connects them with additional needed services to remain self-sustained.

North County cities collaborate in a regional 25 Cities effort.

The Encinitas pilot program will focus efforts on specific city needs, and call on veteran service groups, churches, landlords, law enforcement and homeless individuals to help solve the issue. Regional, state and federal resources will also be utilized.

Rebecca Palmer, Community Resource Center director of programs, said the solution calls for honest communication about the problem.

“We know Encinitas has a lack of obtainable housing,” Palmer said.

Current regional efforts are based on yearly point in time homeless counts, which at best provide a snapshot of needs.

The Encinitas 2015 homeless count recorded 123 homeless individuals, which includes 43-sheltered homeless and 80 living on the street.

“Twenty-five percent of unsheltered homeless are veterans,” Palmer said.

A unique component of the pilot program will include ongoing real time assessments of homeless individuals and families’ needs and progress. Palmer said the data will be updated weekly.

Another important feature of the pilot program is a representation of all stakeholders.

“No one represented stakeholder is going to be able to address this (alone),” Palmer said. “Encinitas has a unique opportunity. We’re bringing stakeholders together.”

The first stakeholders’ meeting is anticipated to be scheduled within a month. The Encinitas Community Resource Center is recruiting representative stakeholders to join the Community Advisory Committee on Homelessness.

Palmer said there are high hopes to place all of the city’s homeless in permanent housing, though with a grounded realization that a lot of work needs to be done.

“The pilot project is not going to eradicate homelessness,” Palmer said. “(During the yearlong pilot) We will be learning solutions we can put in place.”

Palmer added not everyone is on board with the need to address the problem, which when ignored, impacts community services through repeated emergency room visits, and law enforcement calls.

The benefit of finding solutions is it allows individuals to receive needed support and contribute to society. Palmer said homelessness happens for a variety of reasons.

“I know not everyone in the community is wanting to be part of the solution,” Palmer said. “It’s very easy to adopt a bias and stigma. Any individual could have a tragic life occurrence and be in an equally disadvantaged place.”

The pilot program is funded by the city of Encinitas, and will run through April 2017.