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By Jim Desmond
San Diego County District 5 Supervisor 

"Implementing a Pilot Program"


Last updated 4/14/2024 at 12:48pm

The issue of homelessness is not just about lacking shelter; it’s about individuals grappling with mental illness. In our pursuit of solutions, it is crucial to recognize that a significant portion of the homeless population is affected by Serious Mental Illness (SMI), with estimates suggesting that 21% fall into this category. Placing individuals with SMI in environments ill-equipped to meet their needs not only undermines their potential for success but also poses risks to both their well-being and the broader community.

I am proposing a board letter aimed at securing additional behavioral health services for formerly homeless people with serious mental illness. The focus is not only on providing support to those in need but also on ensuring the safety and well-being of our communities. We must strike a balance between compassion and pragmatism, understanding that effective solutions must address the multifaceted nature of homelessness, particularly concerning mental health.

The No Place Like Home (NPLH) program, an initiative by the State, provides funding for the development of permanent supportive housing for the homeless who suffer from mental health issues. Our County has 19 affordable housing developments incorporating NPLH units. However, more than providing housing is needed; we must ensure that these developments are equipped to meet the unique needs of residents with SMI.

Implementing policies prioritizing comprehensive support for residents with SMI is imperative. My proposal advocates for trained personnel on-site, 24/7, at affordable housing developments with NPLH units in North County. These personnel will be equipped with Mental Health First Aid training and have direct access to the County’s 24/7 behavioral health crisis services. Furthermore, new residents moving into these developments will have access to enhanced clinical support on an ongoing basis from the onset of their residency.

This approach is about meeting immediate needs and fostering long-term stability and well-being. By providing consistent access to clinical support, counseling, crisis intervention, and medication management, we can significantly contribute to stabilizing individuals with SMI and reducing the severity of their symptoms. Moreover, these measures are crucial in preventing mental health crises and reducing the likelihood of interactions with law enforcement, thus promoting public safety and community cohesion.

Critically, this proposal is about more than just helping those in need; it’s about recognizing the interconnectedness of social issues and adopting proactive strategies to address them. By investing in comprehensive support systems for individuals with SMI, we are fulfilling our moral obligation to our most vulnerable citizens and creating safer, more cohesive communities for all residents.

Jim Desmond

– San Diego County District 5 Supervisor