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Efforts to get homeless people off the street and into shelters, housing and programs are expected to increase in the new year as more cities throughout the county are taking actions to address the issue.

Skeptics would be right to say they’ve heard it all before, however. Elected officials for years have said solving homelessness is one of their top priorities, but encampments still line many streets and can be found in canyons while shelters remain full.

But something may be different this time. Some cities that have never allowed shelters are making plans to open their first. The city and county of San Diego are working together on new programs, and hundreds of affordable housing units soon will become available for people now on the street or in shelters.

A rain-soaked homeless man sleeps under a tree at Buddy Todd Park in Oceanside on Friday. The city has no shelters.

A homeless man sleeps under a tree at Buddy Todd Park in Oceanside.

(Teresa Connors)

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In January, the first tenants are expected to move into Father Joe’s Villages’ 407-room Saint Teresa of Calcutta Villa affordable housing project in East Village, and all rooms are expected to be occupied by March.

Wakeland Housing & Development Corporation, which operates two affordable housing projects for formerly homeless seniors, plans to open a third, the 52-unit Ivy Senior Apartments in Clairemont, next month.

Also in January, the annual countywide homeless point-in-time count is expected to resume after being skipped last January because of the pandemic. It’s unclear whether the homeless population has increased, but there is reason to believe it has.

Last April, the Regional Task Force on Homelessness released a report that found the number of people who became homeless for the first time more than doubled in 2020, possibly because of the pandemic. The Homeless Crisis Response System report found the number of first-time homeless people in the county increased from 2,326 in 2019 to 4,152 the following year, a 79 percent jump. The previous year saw a 6 percent decrease from 2018.

Within the next few months, two new shelters are expected to open at either end of the county.

The city of Oceanside purchased a former school building with plans to open a 50-bed shelter and has selected the San Diego Rescue Mission to run it.

In National City, the Rescue Mission has purchased another school building that had been used by a church, and the nonprofit recently gained approval to convert it into a 160-bed shelter. Neither that city nor Oceanside has had a year-round shelter.

More shelter beds also are coming to Escondido, where Interfaith Community Services has operated the 49-bed Haven House as North County’s only shelter. Interfaith CEO Greg Anglea said plans are underway to convert the Hawthorne Veteran and Family Resource Center on North Ash Street into a shelter that will serve 10 to 14 families.

The nonprofit also is expected to soon complete the Abraham and Lillian Turk Recuperative Care Center in Escondido, which will provide 54 beds for homeless people who have been discharged from hospitals but still have some healing ahead of them.

In Chula Vista, the City Council recently approved a plan to create 66 prefab units that will provide temporary housing to homeless people. The first of its kind in the county, the plan calls for 63 units that have two beds each and three units that can sleep four for a total capacity of 138.

While nothing is in the works just yet, the Vista City Council in October agreed to ask developers to submit requests for proposals to develop the city’s first shelter.

Also on the horizon, the Lucky Duck Foundation has offered a large tented structure it owns to San Diego or any city that would consider using it as a shelter. The tent can hold 250 beds and had been used as a shelter by Veterans Village of San Diego and at one time was offered to Chula Vista to use as a shelter.

The city and county of San Diego recently opened a 50-bed shelter on Sports Arena Boulevard for homeless people facing addiction and mental illness, and they plan to open in the near future safe havens, longer-term housing for people in recovery.

The county also has increased its outreach efforts to connect more homeless people on the street with services and shelter. Under the new agreement with People Assisting the Homeless, eight PATH outreach workers are in East County, four are in North County, three are in South County and two are in the central and north central region.

Source: This post first appeared on sandiegouniontribune.com

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