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Special San Diego council meeting to deal with growing homeless population

SAN DIEGO -- The city of San Diego needs to focus more resources on preventing homelessness and put more effort into keeping those already helped from returning to the streets, according to a report delivered to the City Council Monday.

Council President Myrtle Cole organized the special meeting on homelessness issues at 1 p.m. at Golden Hall.

"Homeless are in my district. They’re in every single district, they’re at my district office at night so I’m seeing this more and more and we’ve not been addressing it," said Cole.  "We’ve addressed it in different ways, but not at the special council meeting to say okay, everyone come together. Let’s find solutions to this issue."

Among the reports council members heard is one by population health scientist Sue Lindsay, executive director of the SDSU Institute for Public Health.

Lindsay found that nearly 15,000 people with a lack of housing sought help from various agencies in the city of San Diego between Oct. 1, 2015, and Sept. 30 of last year -- more than half of them needing assistance for the first time in at least five years.

It was "unlikely" that enough affordable housing units would be found for so many people, she said in her report.

"San Diego has very few prevention or diversion programs," the report said. "We need to invest more fully in interventions with the potential to find upstream solutions."

She said about one-third of the clients entering San Diego's system of care for the homeless, which encompasses 50 agencies and organizations, have been helped previously.

Twelve percent of the people asking for help were previously placed in permanent housing, according to her report. She said that calls for more housing vouchers or subsidies for longer periods of time, job assistance and additional client services.

The council members also heard an update on city homeless programs from the mayor's office, the county of San Diego and the San Diego Housing Commission.

"What are you doing? What are you doing now? And what can we do in the future to make sure that we house some homeless. I want permanent housing. What does that look like? I’m not sure yet. We’ll find out today but we need permanent housing, we need transitional housing with wrap around services like I talked about. They need mental health, counseling, they need drug and alcohol counseling and we’re going to have some of those organizations and services in our council meeting today,” said Cole. “It’s a process, but it’s starting. The process is starting. That’s exciting to me."