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Mayor launches 3-year $80M homeless plan

SAN DIEGO - The San Diego Housing Commission and area elected officials Wednesday kicked off a three-year, $80 million program to provide more housing for the area's burgeoning homeless population.

The new phase of the commission's Housing First-San Diego plan involves six initiatives, which include giving incentives to landlords to rent to the homeless, providing more than 700 housing vouchers, constructing more voucher- eligible housing units, and assisting 600 more families that become homeless because of a sudden change like loss of a job.

In January's annual tally of the area's transient population, 5,619 homeless individuals were counted in the city of San Diego, a 10.3 percent increase from last year. Of those, 3,231 were living on the streets.

City and county officials have responded recently with a series of proposals on how to address both homelessness and a lack of affordable housing.

"We need to slow and reverse the growth in homelessness, which is why this plan focuses on making more housing units available, as well as preventing people from becoming homeless in the first place," Mayor Kevin Faulconer said.

"It's a comprehensive strategy that breaks down bureaucratic silos by putting more resources behind projects and programs that work," Faulconer said. "We're giving people a safety net so when they become unemployed, face domestic violence or lose a home, they don't end up living in a car or shelter."

The Housing Commission's plans, approved unanimously by the City Council in May, will expand the mayor's Housing Our Heroes program, which provides incentives to landlords to rent to homeless veterans. Incentives will now be provided for renting to all homeless. The mayor's office estimated than 3,000 people could be helped by the program.

Other initiatives include continuing rental assistance for those who no longer need supportive housing, helping nearly 1,500 families at risk of becoming homeless stay in their residences, and giving more support and coordination to street outreach efforts.

"To most effectively address homelessness, San Diego must not only implement strategies to house the people who are currently homeless, but also strategies to prevent people from becoming homeless in the first place," said Councilman Chris Ward, whose district of downtown, Hillcrest and North Park is heavily impacted by the homelessness problem.

"These expanded resources will allow the Housing Commission to make great progress on both fronts," Ward said. "As chair of the City Council's Select Committee on Homelessness, we will continue to work to develop new complementary programs, improve collaboration between city departments and with partner agencies, and further strengthen the city's plan of action on homelessness."

The new council committee met for the first time last month.