As we enter into the fall season, we are ever mindful of the many needed and critical processes and organizations that successfully support people to end their homelessness. In the midst of this unprecedented public health crisis of COVID-19, like our partners, we have continued to work toward system change and found opportunities within the crisis. “Operation Shelter to Home” and the additional benefit of “HomeKey” to purchase hotels are real examples of this work.
We remain as focused and dedicated as ever to supporting our many cities' work across the region. We are assisting in the coordination of funding, and conversations have been occurring in nearly all communities, including Chula Vista, Del Mar, and Carlsbad. Additionally, our staff have been working with other jurisdictions on their approaches to the response, such as the importance of prevention and rental assistant services offered with CARES ACT COVID funding. We have assisted other regions to consider safe shelter with public health in mind, as well as continued the coordination of outreach teams for meal deliveries and mask distributions.
Some of the other items that we have been involved with from an advocacy standpoint is writing a letter of support to Senators Feinstein and Harris for the Emergency Family Stabilization Act, as well as signed on to a letter of support with the National Alliance to End Homelessness (NAEH) and many California agencies to Speaker Pelosi advocating for housing and homeless funding in the HEROES Act. We have provided public comment to the State of California's Department of Healthcare Services on the 1115 Waiver extension, as well as signed on to letter with the Southern California CoC Alliance opposing HUD’s proposed changes to the Equal Access Rule and finally, I signed on as a supporter of Measure A. All this reminds us of the important of everyone’s vote. Please help those experiencing homelessness know their options to register to vote. Our collective voice matters.
Also of note is the national application with Community Solutions to Kaiser Permanente in joining the national Built for Zero initiative, which will add resources, capacity, and national measurement tools for our work to end Veteran and Youth homelessness.
Our primary role, as always, is to help to guide the work of our community, use funding in a coordinated way, advocate and craft policy and practice that always has housing exits in mind.
Happy Fall to all! Be Courageous. Be Safe. Be Well.
Chief Executive Officer
Housing is THE Solution to Homelessness
The RTFH wholeheartedly agrees that housing ends homelessness and is the foundation for addressing any challenges one may have and will help promote health, wellness, and stability. That is why the RTFH, along with many of our partners, is supporting Measure A, a $900 million dollar affordable housing bond on the ballot for the City of San Diego in November.
If passed, Measure A is projected to create hundreds of new housing units for low-income San Diegans, including individuals and families experiencing homelessness. The RTFH was a critical partner in working with the City of San Diego to create its Homeless Action Plan that called for the creation of thousands of affordable and Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH) units to address homelessness. While Measure A alone will not be able to solve the housing problem in San Diego, it will allow the City to more effectively draw down other federal and state funding, potentially help boost the local economy, and get us closer to closing the large unmet housing gap for those with low-incomes who also are living on our streets and shelters.
Face Mask Donations and Distribution
The Muslim Coalition for America (MCA) and the Regional Task Force on the Homeless (RTFH) partnered to supply the entire San Diego County homeless population with high quality face-masks. The MCA is a non-partisan non-profit founded by Omar Qudrat and backed by prominent national leaders in business, sports and entertainment, and a bipartisan array of political leaders.
In June, MCA announced its COVID-19 Relief Task Force to supply the entire homeless populations of San Diego, Orange County, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Oakland and East Bay with face masks. In early September, the RTFH Community Outreach Coordinator, JennaMarie Glenna arranged for Omar to shadow the Crisis House Outreach team and partake in dispersing the face masks. RTFH has distributed over 20,000 face masks to outreach teams for San Diego’s unsheltered and emergency sheltered population, including:
The RTFH Community Outreach Coordinator will continue to connect with community partners to arrange for delivery of face masks. In the event that your organization would like masks for distribution, or if there is a need for more face masks to those organizations who have already received them, please send an email to email@example.com
COVID-19 Hotel Program
The RTFH partnered with San Diego County for the COVID-19 Hotel Program. The COVID-19 Hotel Program was a response to a public health pandemic and was implemented to help people experiencing homelessness remain healthy and prevent the spread of COVID-19. RTFH was assigned to coordinate the services at several of the hotels. Partnering organizations (Interfaith, Alpha Project, Father Joe's Village, and San Diego Downtown Partnership) have determined placement and are providing the services for people in the hotels. Guests in the COVID-19 Hotel Program were prioritized for housing resources in an effort to support safe exits, including permanent housing. The RTFH has provided to the County:
HMIS support and self-certification for eligibility,
Liaison with case management and hotel staff,
Real time problem-solving with County, Hotel, and Provider partners, and
Financial and administrative support to Provider partners.
Since the start of this emergency program, 54 families with children have been served. The providers continue to work with participants of the COVID-19 Hotel Program to identify permanent housing solutions.
Built for Zero Campaign with Community Solutions
Built For Zero (BFZ) is a national campaign focused on ending homelessness for targeted populations and is spearheaded by Community Solutions, a national organization responsible for system changing movements including the 100,000 Homes Campaign. BFZ supports communities across the country in designing processes, methodologies, and providing tested measurements tools to reach “functional zero” with a homeless population.
This fall, the RTFH is signing on to the BFZ initiative to support existing commitments in San Diego with ending Veteran and youth homelessness within the City of San Diego’s Community Action Plan on Homelessness and the regional Coordinated Community Plan to End Youth Homelessness. San Diego will join a small cohort of large cities that includes Phoenix, AZ, Denver, CO, Atlanta, GA, Washington, DC and others committed to ending homelessness. With potential funding support through Kaiser Permanente, the RTFH will have the ability to expand capacity and have dedicated staff focused on coordinating the initiative locally and connecting with national partners and peer communities.
For users of the Clarity HMIS system, an expected change to the Coordinated Entry Data Standards is taking place and new data elements have been added to capture information. This new CES Workflow will now be similar to most other programs in HMIS, requiring a program enrollment, methods of tracking engagement within the program enrollment and ultimately, a program exit. All Coordinated Entry program enrollments should have a corresponding program enrollment into an Emergency Shelter, Safe Haven, Transitional Housing, Outreach, or Supportive Services Only program type. All users need to take the updated CES training that will be released on 09/21/2020 which covers these items to get access to the CE program.
As a reminder, the HMIS Team has transitioned fully to online-only training incorporating webinars, online quizzes, and remote data entry review and support for trainees at this time. If you are a staff member who needs training, you can fill out this online training request form. The trainee will receive an email from the HMIS team once they are registered by their Agency Administrator and approved. Advanced registration is required. For more information, please refer to the “HMIS Training and Support” section on the HMIS page.
The 20-21 State budget was signed by Governor Newsom on June 29th, 2020. The State Budget includes $300 million for a second round of Homeless, Housing Assistance, and Prevention (HHAP) funding. The State announced the allocations on September 1, 2020 and will release the application for these funds no later than November 30, 2020. Additional information can be found here.
We will evaluate the outcomes of HEAP and YHDP, and this gives us an opportunity to support additional exit strategies.
Notice of Funding Availability (NOFA)
HUD has not yet released information regarding this year's NOFA, but that information will be sent out to the the community as soon as it becomes available. As of now, the HUD website still states that the 2020 CoC Program Competition is not yet open. All eligible grantees should have been notified last month to verify their project information, and the RTFH sent the verification and change orders to the HUD LA office. HUD will review all revised GIW's no later than September 25th.
The next General Membership meeting is scheduled for October 8th. More information can be found on the Events calendar.
Youth Homelessness Demonstration Program (YHDP)
The RTFH was awarded $7.94 million, the largest grant in the country to develop a youth ecosystem of housing and support services to effectively prevent and end homelessness for youth in the San Diego region. This funding supports San Diego's Coordinated Community Plan to End Youth Homelessness (CCP). The strategy is to center youth in the design & oversight of activities, provide a variety of safe and stable housing resources, and support social well-being and permanent connections. It will also connect youth to education, employment, & entrepreneurialism, utilize outreach and prevention & diversion strategies, and facilitate collaboration across systems.
As with many efforts, there have been challenges with COVID-19 disrupting the funding of YHDP, and there were additional challenges related to outreach/engagement and housing search, as well as finding available rental units.
Our San Diego region remains deeply committed to ending youth homelessness and continues to learn new ways to deliver services to youth during the pandemic. Next steps will include providing technical assistance on Rapid Re-Housing program delivery, convening project peer learning groups, and using case conferencing to connect youth. The RTFH will continue to support YHDP funded providers to achieve both excellence in project delivery and long-term systems change to ensure that youth homelessness is rare, brief, and non-recurring.
New Staff and Positions to Welcome to the RTFH
Susan Bower, MSW, MPH -Local Government Liaison
Susan Bower worked with the County of San Diego’s Health and Human Services Agency for 24 years, spending 18 years working in a variety of roles within Behavioral Health Services, most recently the last 6 years in Integrative Services.
She spent the last 6 years in her most recent role as the Health and Homelessness Administrator within Integrative Services, where she developed the “H3” initiative – Health, Housing and Human Services. The goal of the initiative was to develop coordinated systems of services that meet people’s needs, particularly those who may be involved in the criminal justice system, may be homeless, and/or may have complex physical and/or behavioral health issues. She has been extensively involved in the County’s homeless services system, working at both the policy level and in the development of new programs.
During her time at Behavioral Health Services, she served as the Director of Operations when San Diego fully merged the Mental Health Division with the Alcohol and Drug Services Division. As the Director of Operations for Behavioral Health, Susan oversaw prevention, treatment, and recovery services for both mental health and substance abuse services through over 400 contracts, two hospitals, and several county-operated programs. She also oversaw an overall budget of approximately $430m. Prior to the establishment of Behavioral Health Services, Susan served as the County’s Alcohol and Drug Program Administrator for 7 years.
Grants & Contracts Program Analyst
Jessica Torres first joined the RTFH in August 2018 as an HMIS Support Specialist but has now transitioned to Grants & Contracts as a Program Analyst. We welcome her to this new position.
Jessica truly believes in personal development and finding improved methods of communication. She has spent over 22 years working with the homeless population and nonprofit organizations, developing and implementing streamlined approaches with federal and private funding, nonprofits, and the Department of Defense. In San Diego, she has been an administrator for a skilled nursing facility and housed Veterans at VVSD.
Jessica has been a Privacy and Security officer for the RTFH, and in the healthcare fields as with the RTFH, has transitioned current Clarity users from the previous HMIS database. Related to her newest position, she has performed data analysis, financial management, research, and developing training content to support the subrecipients. She has also developed presentations, budget proposals, performance measurements. She has also formulated strategic planning related to ethical leadership decision-making, policy issues, and challenges impacting the public administration.
She's a volunteer Ombudsman to military reservists, passionate about Veteran advocacy, medical reviews, and an administrator for Fundraiser Friday's. Baking, cooking, laughing with her children are also part of her daily routine, and their dog is therapeutic.
HMIS Support Specialist
Graduated from the University of California, San Diego with a BA in Global Health, Elizabeth Pairis’ passion towards ending homelessness initially sparked when she volunteered at Father Joe’s Villages kitchen during her senior year of college. After college, she knew she wanted to help improve lives and strengthen underserved communities, which led her to becoming a LISC AmeriCorp volunteer in October 2019 as an RTFH Project Specialist. Now that her LISC AmeriCorp contract has come to an end, she is proud to officially be part of the RTFH as an HMIS Support Specialist. Aside from work, she loves spending time outdoors with her fiancé and two fur babies, working out, and traveling.
New CES System Specialists
Prior to joining the RTFH, Brenda Viveros was the Center Director for C2 Education, a tutoring, test prep, and college admissions counseling services company for the past year in San Diego. Brenda is new to the West Coast: almost three years she embarked on a new adventure via route 66 from Chicago where she was born and raised. In Chicago, Brenda began a 6-year career as a high school Spanish teacher for Chicago Public Schools and also two years as an operations and site manager for the non-for-profit Tutoring Chicago.
Brenda is also passionate about health and fitness thus in the interim between positions, she also has 7 years of experience in the world of large-scale running events such as the national race series Hot Chocolate 15K/5K as the Participant Experience Event Liaison. In her free time she enjoys running, cycling, swimming, dancing and discovering California's beauty. Brenda lives in Pacific Beach with her husband, and loves fish tacos!
Keisha Smith graduated from Kaplan University with a BA in Criminology and served eight years in the United States Marine Corps and toured Iraq and Okinawa Japan. During her time in the Marine Corps as a Non-Commissioned Officer she mentored and assisted Marines in their career growth and transition to the civilian sector. While stationed in Okinawa Japan and Camp Lejeune North Carolina she participated with the Boys and Girls club monthly events. In the last 15 years she’s worked for William Sonoma and USPS in the Technical Support field. Keisha enjoys traveling abroad and all throughout the United States. In her free time, she loves to read and learn about everything history related.
The Housing Stabilization Act
Enacted on the last day in August, The Housing Stabilization Act of 2020 (CA Assembly Bill 3088) defines new laws in California for eviction and rent payments in 2020 and beyond to address the housing instability caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. This protect tenants from eviction for non-payment of rent and helps keep homeowners out of foreclosure as a result of economic hardship that has resulted from the COVID-19 virus.
They have noted that despite the protections that are upheld, all rent will be due back to landlords. For protection from eviction, beginning Feb. 1, 2021, all are expected to have paid back the full rent amount due. One month later, landlords will then to have the ability to take tenants to small claims court to recover unpaid rent debt regardless of how much the tenant owes.
There are also guidelines for tenant protection on the state's Tenant and Landlord Resources page where a reminder outlines that for those who qualify, 25% of rent due between September 1, 2020 through January 31, 2021 must be paid no later than the end of January. 2-1-1 is also providing guidance to people who call, so for anyone facing a housing crisis because of COVID who would like some assistance, they can reach out to 2-1-1.
While we have seen some cooler temperatures as of late, the heat has yet to abate completely. A reprieve is available not only for our older populations, but also for those who do not yet have a place to call home. Several Cool Zone locations have been set up by the County, and include libraries, community centers, nature centers, and many other locations. It is important to note that due to COVID-19, safety measures will be in place to protect the health of Cool Zone visitors and staff. Anyone entering a County Cool Zone will have their temperature taken. All visitors and staff must also wear face coverings and practice social distancing. Time limits may be in place due to limited capacity.