by Photo courtesy of Father Joe's Village

Father Joe’s Villages posted a report detailing the state of homelessness in San Diego County and offering solutions to stop the cycle of severe poverty. 

The report comes months after the Regional Task Force on Homelessness (RTFH) published the results of their annual Point-in-Time count, which took place in February 2022. The results found a 10 percent increase in homelessness within the region from when the count was performed in 2020. 

There were no fewer than 8,426 individuals experiencing homelessness on a given night.

Published in a separate report, RTFH estimates more than 36,500 San Diegans interacted with the homeless services system in the twelve months from October 1, 2020, through September 30, 2021.

“Many of the realities that our clients and staff face every day are not known or understood by the general public,” said Deacon Jim Vargas, president, and CEO of Father Joe’s Villages. “Through this report, we seek to better inform the public discourse about homelessness so that policy solutions devised in board rooms align with the true realities faced on the streets. I encourage everyone in San Diego, from everyday citizens to policymakers, to work as a united community to support, fund, and enact effective solutions for those who need us the most.”

The report found that the most significant factors impacting homelessness in the region and solutions to critical challenges that San Diegans experiencing homelessness commonly endure, such as issues around affordable housing, substance use, the criminal justice system, access to shelter, and health care.

​​The report also breaks down the impact of rising food and housing prices affecting low-income individuals and families, forcing many into making difficult decisions between critical needs.

“The truth is that the increased focus on homelessness over the past couple of years has made a difference. However, at the same time that thousands of neighbors left homelessness behind, even more, were falling into homelessness and becoming trapped by the treacherous cycle of severe poverty,” reads the report. 

With the economic effects of COVID-19 shutdowns, job losses, and hospitalizations, the report found that more low-income individuals and families had the least access to resources that would help them avoid homelessness. 

The report notes that in 2020, 80 percent of job losses were among the lowest quarter of wage earners, such as those in the service industry, and about 37 percent of adults went into debt for routine expenses. 

The nonprofit outlined four solutions to help the homeless population.

According to the report, the average home price hovers near $1 million, and the average apartment renting for more than $2,700 a month. 

Even though many San Diegans struggle to maintain a roof over their heads, prices continue to increase with inflation. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, in April 2022 consumer prices increased by 7.9 percent from one year ago. 

As a solution, Father Joe’s Villages advocates for the development of more affordable housing, streamlining funding efforts for affordable housing as well as subsidies for senior adults.

Father Joe's Village said shelters are not always the first choice for some individuals for a variety of reasons. The nonprofit suggests ways to provide safe villages and outreach centers and spread awareness about the ways enforcement and construction influence encampments. 

Other factors contributing to the inability to secure income and housing include disabilities and mental and physical health conditions. The report lists solutions that include recuperative care, street health services, the expansion of behavioral health care, conservatorship, and housing.

Chronic homelessness can also stem from substance use. The nonprofit said there is a need for diverse same-day services, medical assisted treatment, harm reduction resources, and sober and non-sober shelter and housing options. 

Additionally, Father Joe’s Villages calls for an aggressive stance on drug dealing and the need for programs similar to the proposed CARE Court.

“Despite the many challenges faced by the San Diego community as a whole and that our neighbors on the streets face on an individual level, there is always a reason to hope. Every day, there are innovative, compassionate, and life-changing solutions being piloted, developed, and implemented. Every day, people are finding the strength to move forward and leave homelessness behind,” the report reads. 

Click here to read the full report.  

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