Since his involvement with the Work for Hope rehabilitation program in Chula Vista, supervisor Joey Rubio has gotten over 130 individuals off the street.
After spending 35 years in a penitentiary on a life installment program, Rubio found the McAlister institute, which offers substance abuse and drug intervention services. As a new entry in 2018, Rubio received assistance in all areas of life from employment, family and personal development while acclimating to life outside of a penitentiary.
“I had no concept on how to live out here,” Rubio said at a Nov.9 City Council meeting. “These guys were instrumental in my life.”
The McAlister Institute works closely with the city’s Homeless Outreach Team (HOT), which was established in 2016. Rubio took part in the creation of the Work for Hope rehabilitation program.
“I lived that type of life and I came from that kind of environment. I can reach these people. I don't know. God gifted me with this. They come in homeless, and they do outreach with them,” Rubio said.
The Work for Hope program alongside Take Back the Streets from the Alpha Project are two programs funded through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, an economic stimulus bill passed in response to the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Both programs offer employment, training and employment opportunities for unsheltered and formally unsheltered individuals.Their efforts resulted in over one million pounds of trash and 921 carts being removed from city public spaces.
According to Chula Vista Senior Management Analyst Angelica Davis, the city has seen a dramatic increase in the unsheltered population in the past few years. A Regional Task Force last held a count on homelessness in 2019, and the year after was skipped due to the pandemic.
“We haven't been able to get a true count,” said Homeless Outreach Team supervisor, Srgt. Ernie Pinedo.
Due to this, the HOT formulated their own operation called Chula Vista Count 21 in order to gain an accurate count in the city while utilizing resources such as drones to ensure accurate identification. Interviewing was a key component of the count, groups of officers and community partners.
According to Pinedo, the last available numbers reflected a total 313 unsheltered individual. The total number recorded by Chula Vista 2021 reflected a total of 792 unsheltered individuals. Of that total, 672 reported as unsheltered which includes 350 housed in hotels and motels.
“While they technically have shelter at the time, individuals are considered sheltered because those with a place to sleep for the night paid for by a charitable organization or a governmental agency are considered unsheltered because without the assistance, they will likely be on the street,” Pinedo said.
Since it’s establishment in 2016, the Homeless Outreach Team (HOT) has conducted regular outreach to the unsheltered population alongside partnered local community organizations, faith based agencies, health agencies, mental health providers and neighboring cities.
According to Davis, a minimum of 400 touch-points have been made by the HOT monthly with over 75 people moved off the street into transitional housing and into permanent housing. Those who are receptive to work with the HOT are placed in transitional housing where case management immediately begins.
The city has allocated over a million dollars in tenant-based rental assistance programs through a federal block grant program. For those who are already housed, the city continues to case manage to ensure they are on a stable path.
Contributing factors leading to homelessness found job loss being the main contributing factor which “is the beginning of a domino effect of issues and obstacles that they face,”according to Pinedo.
Despite not having shelter, the homeless outreach team has operated with resources available to them. According to Pinedo, all departments “regardless of titles” have put boots on the ground when needed.
“I’ve had the privilege to work with many of these organizations through the CBDG grant program. There is something to say about reading the reports sitting at your desk, and going into the field to witness their passion, dedication and commitment to our community,” Davis said.