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Facing It Together: San Diego organizations make a difference for the homeless

Posted at 9:05 PM, Oct 28, 2019
and last updated 2019-10-29 00:05:34-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - San Diego’s homeless crisis is an ongoing concern but programs, nonprofits, and schools are working to make sure people find shelter.

When students arrive at Monarch School, there’s no telling what they might need. The staff is prepared.

“We have four showers on campus. We open at 6 a.m., we have breakfast…we have a clothing boutique,” said CEO Erin Spiewak.

Everything a child needs to prepare for the day is available because students don’t have a place to call home.

“They're either living in a hotel or motel in one of our downtown shelters they're in a car or on the street.”

Roughly 23,000 school-age children in San Diego County are homeless, according to Spiewak. Monarch serves about 300 of them.

“The one thing that becomes stable for them is Monarch School; coming to the same school everyday, seeing the same friends, seeing the same staff becomes a ritual and a habit where they now have an environment where they feel safe and secure,” said Spiewak.

In addition to meeting students’ physical needs, the school also to address students’ emotional well-being by providing therapists on and off site. The ultimate goal is making sure students get a quality education.

“We know that the lack of a high school diploma is a big indicator of adult homelessness,” Spiewak said. “We have numbers between 70 to 90 percent of our students are graduating, so we know that with this population our success in getting them to that finish line is imperative to ensure they're not becoming homeless adults.”

Homeless adults draw the attention of San Diego City Council member Chris Ward, the chair of the Regional Task Force on the Homeless. Ward says one of the most effective ways of helping people is through programs that intervene before they end up on the streets.

“It’s far more cost effective to help people stay housed rather than have them fall in and have their own individual circumstances become more complex,” Ward said.

While bridge shelters like the large tents downtown have proven effective in getting a roof over peoples’ heads quickly, Ward says the ultimate solution is simply more affordable housing.

“We have to work on the permanent solutions. Housing construction and new development takes a long time. We have to find new resources to fund that and make that happen,” Ward said.

Ward wants voters to approve a housing bond to fund more projects.

“We’ve done all of our homework; we know what the needs are and if we all agree this is the way to move forward, hopefully we'll have more to work with in the years ahead,” said Ward.

When it comes time to build more housing, nonprofits turn to another nonprofit: Home Aid. The group builds or renovates facilities at below-market rate.

In Escondido, Home Aid partnered with Interfaith Community Services on a facility for veterans who have been discharged from the hospital and have nowhere to go. Since 2002, Home Aid has completed 26 projects around the county and has dozens more in the works.