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New outreach program helps the homeless in Mid-City

SAN DIEGO -- San Diego City Councilman Chris Ward announced the launch Thursday of a program to help homeless residents in North Park and City Heights gain access to housing and medical services.

The city developed the one-year pilot program with North Park Main Street Executive Director Angela Landsberg. The City Heights Business Association, City Heights Community Development Corporation,  Councilwoman Georgette Gomez, the office of former county Supervisor Ron Roberts and Price Philanthropies all contributed funding and resources to the project's development.

An oversight committee comprised of local stakeholders will manage the program, according to Ward's office. USC will also study the program and compose a report at its conclusion, detailing the number of homeless residents who made connections to housing, medical and job training services.

"Mid-city's new outreach coordinator is the result of a broad coalition, dedicated to moving unsheltered San Diegans into permanent housing and connecting them with an array of support services," Ward said. "This program is hopefully the first in a region-wide shift toward a refocus on productive, coordinated, and proactive outreach methods that meets unsheltered people where they are."

The city of San Diego's homeless population officially totaled 4,912 during last year's point-in-time homeless count, representing 57 percent of the county's total population of homeless residents. Many of those residents resided in Ward's City Council district, which includes North Park, City Heights, Balboa Park and downtown.

"Each of us, government leaders, community agencies and business associations have provided funding to make this project possible," said City Heights CDC Executive Director Laura Ann Fernea. "It's only when we all work together that workable, realistic solutions can be found."

Erin Papaleo has been homeless for more than a year and has been living on the streets in North Park. She is working with the outreach program to get her life back on track.

"I'm a college graduate," Papaleo told FOX 5. "We all need that help to take the first step and I think it's a great idea."

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