This is in order from most important / urgent at the top, to less urgent at the bottom. And with limited financial, human, and political resources and bandwidth, prioritizing is important regardless of how much money is put into the issue.
Planning, Best Practices & Leadership – We need a regional plan to get everyone (elected officials, funders, service providers, businesses, and the general public) on board with a shared vision and plan based on best practices. We need to support the efforts of the RTFH as they are the ones coordinate the efforts countywide.
Focusing Resources – Focusing CDBG and other funds that are generally spread over many low income populations almost entirely on homelessness issue for a certain number of years. As they say in Houston, “If you spread the peanut butter too thin, no one will taste it.”
Metrics – The metrics of each program needs to be available to the general public. I asked CoC service providers if the project level data would be available the public and they said no. I believe this is due to pressure from the service providers, so it would take high level elected officials to push to make this data public. It’s been public in Seattle since 2014 and looks like this:
Diversion – This is the first thing we should be aggressively pursuing. It’s low cost and can have an immediate impact. I think some HUD training has been done for our service providers through the RTFH this year, but not sure.
Also, having landlords be required to provide pre-eviction notices to an organization that can connect the tenant with a homeless service provider before they are evicted can prevent homeless. It can also develop trust by the landlord in the service provider so they will accept placements of formerly homeless folks by that service provider in the future.
Housing Exits – After diversion, we need to focus on housing exits.
Scale up the SDHC Moving On Program to free up permanent supportive housing units. Would be interesting to see data on these programs.
Scale up Rapid Rehousing (RRH). – (From the Focus Strategies Phase 1 of the SD Community Plan) – Approach business community for investment in large scale rapid rehousing initiative. Funding could be scaled to make a major impact on size of family homeless population and a measurable impact on single adult homelessness. San Francisco’s Heading Home initiative can be a model (multimillion dollar investment by tech sector; managed by Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing).
Scale up shared housing. Bring John Foley to SD as a consultant. San Diego has something called the Independent Living Association, but it doesn’t do what they do in Sacramento.
Scale up landlord engagement. Bring Matt Hurd to SD as a consultant to set up Open Doors San Diego. Open Doors does it in a very different way then the SDHC.
Provide gap funding between market rate and HUD voucher payments.
Build more traditional permanent supportive housing (PSH)
Work with insurance companies to pay for housing for frequent emergency room patients who exit into homelessness. Mike Phillips at Jewish Family Services is doing a program like this in Riverside County.
Funding for Ongoing Support Services – I don’t have much info on this, but once someone is placed in permanent housing, the support services must be sufficient to help them stay housed. In SD, we’ve had poor performance recently with our RRH programs with more people then expected falling back into homelessness. RRH can also be used as bridge housing for PSH, but in SD, the funding rules and culture don’t allow for this. This could be changed.
HMIS & Coordinated Entry – The RTFH is in the process of changing to a new HMIS vendor. Seems like this should be a big improvement and help us get better quality data.
Outreach – You don’t want to do a bunch of outreach immediately because it creates more people going into the system then exiting it into permanent housing, but as soon as a flow starts to occur, outreach is essential so that you can locate those who are the most in need on the streets who otherwise wouldn’t seek help. People should be able to go straight into housing from the streets without every going into a shelter.
Income – Once someone is housed, getting them income (government money or a job) can improve their lives and reduce the cost to society.
Shelters – Once we’ve been able to focus on these other key areas, we should evaluate the number of shelter beds versus the need based on the characteristics of our homeless population and right-size our shelter system, either by reducing or increasing the number of beds. Many of these other initiatives (like Open Doors Atlanta, diversion programs, and more RRH) are much less expensive then shelters and can have an immediate impact.