New report shows skyrocketing cost of treating chronic alcoholism, homelessness

SAN DIEGO - A report to be released by San Diego police Tuesday shows the skyrocketing cost of treating chronic alcoholism and homelessness in San Diego. It is a huge problem costing taxpayers thousands.

According to the report, in one year, one man had to be transported to the hospital 52 times. He was also arrested eight times. That cost the city $85,000.

Sean Fitzpatrick has been homeless for more than two years. He sees police arresting someone on the streets for being drunk regularly.

"It's a daily thing," he said. "They have to make sure every day, they're enforcing the laws."

In 2013, police made 7,600 arrests for drunk in public offenses. Many detained are part of the homeless community.

"A lot of these people, they turn to alcohol. It's a cheap way to numb yourself from what you're going through," Fitzpatrick said.

But some are costing the city an astronomical amount. In the report to be presented to the city's Committee on Public Safety and Livable Neighborhoods, it identified 12 chronic alcoholics that were transported 316 times in a year. That cost the city nearly $470,000.

That is where the Homeless Outreach Team (HOT) and the Serial Inebriate Program (SIP) come in.

Edward Quiles used to live on the streets but did not realize the teams' mission.

"I thought they took you back to prison, so I stood away from them," Quiles said.

The teams help the homeless find services they need, rather than throw them in jail.

Council President Todd Gloria spoke Monday morning at Connections Housing, a service and housing community designed to help homeless people rebuild their lives.

"Living on the streets is more expensive for taxpayers," Gloria said. "It seems counterintuitive, but the overreliance on emergency rooms, on 911, on interaction with law enforcement is more expensive than to give them housing in a facility like Connections Housing."

Last year, the HOT program had more than 2,100 contacts with people on the streets. About 720 were placed in facilities other than jail. In 2012, 391 received placement. San Diego police are calling this a success with the program and its partnering agencies.

"They're really interested in getting them off the street and getting them the help that they need," Fitzpatrick said.

On Monday, Mayor Kevin Faulconer announced $160,000 allocated in the proposed budget for HOT and SIP. This is part of $1.9 million proposed to help with homelessness solutions.

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