The Coast News Group
A homeless man sleeps in Grape Day park. File photo
A homeless man sleeps on Sept. 23 at Grape Day Park before a press conference regarding draft legislation on prohibiting homeless encampments in public spaces. Photo by Steve Puterski

Supervisors fund homeless diversion program

REGION — The county Board of Supervisors have agreed to fund a Regional Task Force on Homelessness program aimed at helping people stay off the streets.

As proposed by board Vice Chair Terra Lawson-Remer, the county will contribute $500,000 to RTFH for a program that according to her office “has already kept 2,000 people in San Diego County housed since 2019, for a relatively low cost, roughly $1,500 per person.”

By comparison, it can cost more than $10,000 to provide a shelter bed to someone for 169 days, Lawson- Remer said.

“Diversion is a successful practice that has been underutilized in San Diego County,” Lawson-Remer said during the meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 10.

According to her office, diversion helps steer those who recently became homeless, usually within the first month, away from a shelter or living outside with help from trained providers who `”know how to ask the right

Those questions can involve whether to reunite a person with his or her family, find temporary housing or relocate permanently to a safe location elsewhere, Lawson-Remer’s office said.

Those in the program may also receive short-term financial assistance – such as an application fee, car repair, or security or utility deposit – to them get back in a house.

Since 2019, RTFH and its partners have helped nearly 2,000 people avoid living on the streets, Lawson-Remer said.

Six philanthropic groups and the city of San Diego – which is contributing $50,000 – are also putting money into RTFH homeless diversion efforts.

Donating organizations are the San Diego Foundation, with $200,000; Jewish Community Foundation, around $175,000; Lucky Duck Foundation, $100,000; Conrad Prebys Foundation, $100,000; Cushman Foundation, $50,000; and Funders Together to End Homelessness, $50,000.

“Thanks to the generosity of so many, including our county government, an estimated 800 people will not be homeless because of diversion programs,” Lawson-Remer said. “We have plenty more work to do on
homelessness, but this is another example of how our county has stepped up to do more since 2021 to tackle homelessness, and be a good partner to the 18 cities and our unincorporated communities.”

Lawson-Remer’s colleagues Joel Anderson and Nora Vargas also praised the diversion program, as did several advocates who spoke during a public comment period.

John Brady, of Lived Experience Advisors, said he was grateful for Lawson-Remer’s proposal, adding that it’s critical to keep people in their homes, particularly senior citizens. He noted that Tuesday was World Homeless Day.

Supervisor Jim Desmond was absent from Tuesday’s meeting due to a long-standing family commitment, according to his office.

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