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La Mesa’s homeless outreach program making progress

Finding a home for a couple and their young daughter who were living in a broken-down van is one of the early success stories coming from La Mesa’s new Homeless Outreach Mobile Engagement program.

The program is an initiative of the city of La Mesa, in collaboration with the La Mesa Police Department and People Assisting the Homeless, also known as PATH, a group the city hired last September and tasked with helping the city’s homeless population find housing, gain access to services and connect to resources.

Begun last November under the guidance of its founder, La Mesa Police Capt. Matt Nicholass, the program helps those most in need access services. HOME provides a housing-first and trauma-informed approach to addressing homelessness in La Mesa.

According to the latest report provided by La Mesa Police Chief Ray Sweeney, from April through June, the HOME team made contact with 75 individuals experiencing homelessness, including 58 males. HOME enrolled 42 adults and two children in the program and reported that 13 located a temporary or permanent home.

Of the 13, five households exited to temporary housing — defined as an emergency shelter, transitional housing, or other location that provides housing/shelter without tenure. Seven households — a total of eight people — moved to permanent housing, defined as a lease unit meeting U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development occupancy standards. Some received supportive services, such as mental health counseling.

In the case of the family who had been living in the van since the death of one of the family member’s parents, the HOME team was able to step up and come to their assistance.

The family was entered in the program’s coordinated entry system, and the HOME Team arranged for a mobile mechanic to come repair the van.

While the van was being repaired, the HOME Team arranged for bridge housing through a hotel voucher. The family was then matched to a housing provider that assisted the family with securing an affordable apartment and moved into it with up to a year of rental assistance.

Because the family lost most of their furniture during this transition, a referral to local nonprofit Humble Design was made, and the company was able to furnish every room of the apartment.

“I think the home program has done what it intended to do — put experts on the street to help those most desperately in need and make families whole again,” Sweeney said on Wednesday. “HOME is a wonderful addition to the city. Its success keeps officers on the street so they can focus on crime and being involved in the community.”

From April through June, HOME program outreach specialists responded to 355 service calls routed through the police department’s dispatch center, a city hotline or via email — most of which would have otherwise been addressed by city emergency response services or police.

HOME program staff operate out of the police department’s headquarters in downtown La Mesa and respond to non-emergency calls for service related to homelessness that are generated through police dispatch, with proper calls attended to by a HOME outreach specialist. Police or Psychiatric Emergency Response Team officers are only requested for rare cases involving legal or safety concerns.

The group prioritizes the most vulnerable individuals in La Mesa, including individuals with heightened risk of complications due to COVID-19, households with children and individuals facing chronic homelessness.

HOME is also helping people overcome challenges that prevent them from finding and securing a place to live, such as loss of employment from COVID-19 lockdowns, lack of money for a rental deposit, need for credit repair, help finding a job. HOME program staff arrange rides to apartment viewings, shelter stays, program intake interviews and other critical appointments via ridesharing service.

Since beginning operations in November, HOME program staff has provided some form of financial and/or basic-needs assistance to all enrolled clients to get them into housing and keep them safe during the pandemic. Sweeney’s report said that HOME program staff distributed nearly $5,000 in direct financial assistance, including vehicle repair, storage costs and funds used to secure new rental units.



Source: on 2021-07-19 14:32:11

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