This report details the findings of research commissioned by the City of San Diego and carried out by student-researchers at San Diego State University on the issue of homelessness in downtown San Diego. We provide a snapshot of the perceptions of the homeless residents of the East Village neighborhood of downtown San Diego in Spring 2016. The East Village is home to a large and growing population of homeless individuals.
We interviewed the homeless residents of the East Village regarding the services they access, their desire to obtain permanent housing, and their interactions with law enforcement—both the San Diego Police Department (SDPD) in general and the SDPD’s Homeless Outreach Team (HOT).
Our findings indicate that access to permanent housing for homeless individuals remains low. Major barriers to housing include: difficulty meeting requirements, such as delays in qualifying for and receiving Supplemental Security Income; the expense of housing in San Diego and the dwindling availability of single room occupancy facilities; the lack of safety in some temporary housing options that serve as a pipeline to permanent housing, including shelters and transitional housing; and the inability of current housing options to deal with issues of addiction, especially for active drug users. Our research participants vocalized a need for more sensitivity on the part of the City and the SDPD in general to the various circumstances which precipitate homelessness, rather than a blanket assumption of deviance. Our participants also vocalized the need for safe outdoor spaces, lockers, and bathrooms for those living on the streets while awaiting housing. While there is ample awareness among homeless individuals of the HOT’s presence, the team faces an array of obstacles in connecting homeless individuals in need with available resources. Barriers, including coordination across diverse service providers and a dearth of skilled nursing facilities in the local area, and recommendations for the HOT are discussed.
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