Mayor meets with Ben Carson about homeless services funding

SAN DIEGO — San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer met with U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson Thursday to discuss federal support for combating homelessness.

Carson visited the Veterans Village of San Diego campus on a three-city trip that also included stops in San Francisco and Los Angeles. According to Faulconer’s office, the meeting with Carson was a late add to his tour and came at the department’s request.

During their 30-minute meeting, Faulconer and Carson discussed recent HUD funding for homeless services and housing vouchers, the state’s need for housing reform and local programs like the city’s bridge shelters to assist homeless residents moving into long-term housing and the safe parking program for residents who live out of their cars or recreational vehicles.

“The leadership in San Diego has a grasp of the homelessness situation, which stems in part from rising housing costs,” Carson said. “To reduce homelessness in San Diego, the city has developed a housing plan which takes the appropriate steps to alleviate some of the impediments to the production of affordable housing.”

The visit was Carson’s first to San Diego since February, when he toured one of the city’s bridge shelters, which offer various services such as housing assistance as well as a place for homeless residents to sleep in safety. The shelters, operated by three local homeless advocacy organizations, have the capacity to serve nearly 700 residents every day.

A December 2018 report from HUD, based on the annual point-in-time homeless count, found that San Diego County had the fourth-most homeless residents of any metro area in the United States, trailing Seattle/King County in Washington, Los Angeles County and New York City.

The county’s 2019 count found a reduction of about 6% in homelessness, mostly driven by its population of unsheltered residents falling from 4,990 last year to 4,476 this year. The county received roughly $20 million in federal funding from HUD as a result of last year’s survey.

“We have creative programs that are making a difference, and we can’t do it alone,” Faulconer said. “Continued support from the state and federal government is critical to not only running these programs but also expanding them to tackle this crisis.”

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