Commentary: Addressing homelessness in North County

By Supervisor Jim Desmond

We’ve all heard the same political campaign speech, ‘We need to solve homelessness,’ and while it sounds good, that promise which has been made time and time again, usually lacks substance.

San Diego County continues to struggle with an ongoing crisis of homelessness with an estimated 22,000 people experiencing homelessness at some point throughout the year.

While much of the focus on homelessness is in the urban core, North San Diego County feels the effects. In 2019, 1,540 homeless individuals were counted in one night, in North County. Despite millions of dollars being spent, improvement has been limited.

Earlier this week, I partnered with Supervisor Lawson-Remer on a board letter, which looks to make a significant impact to address North County’s homeless population.

The action develops a North County pilot program, which includes teams of outreach staff and will be compromised of highly qualified social workers, which will be deployed in cities to develop trust and build relationships with homeless individuals.

Working closely with each City government’s homeless personnel and resources, the County staff will leverage resources regionally, across jurisdictional lines. They will be able to transport clients and will have access to funds to provide for incidentals such as clothing, food, help obtaining identification and short-term motel vouchers as part of the engagement.

This engagement will lead to services and housing, getting this vulnerable population off the street, making a dent in the crisis facing many of our cities.

Currently, each of the eight cities in North County has various service providers, which deploy resources and programs, however, in order to truly tackle this problem, the elected leaders in these cities have come together to coordinate a regional approach and collaborate with the County. This will provide a greater level of outreach and support to unhoused individuals.

For too long those experiencing homelessness and the residents of San Diego County have been given empty promise upon empty promise. The time for talk is done. It’s time for San Diego County and North County to step up to address this problem together.

Supervisor Jim Desmond represents District 5, including Oceanside, Carlsbad, Vista, San Marcos, and Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton.