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The Task Force Times

July/August 2020 Edition

CEO Corner

 
During this time of year, I usually join my peers around the county and the top leaders in the nation on ending homelessness in Washington, D.C. at the National Alliance to End Homelessness (NAEH) conference. This is where we come together to learn about emerging best practices, hear from HUD and other national officials, and advocate for our work with our Congressional leaders. While I miss this important think tank, I have had opportunities to participate in many important conversations and meetings that are helping to inform and frame the messages coming from these leaders. To this end, I feel it is important to share a message from NAEH from one of their recent blog posts:

“Homelessness as we know it is at a critical turning point. There are now historic opportunities to shape the future of how the field operates: opportunities born from new strategies, funding, and energy during the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as a renewed commitment to attain racial equity in the homelessness field. We know that this work encompasses many local, state, and national forces working together to achieve a common goal of ending homelessness. This historic moment has shown the field to be more engaged than ever before.

That energy is important – and we can use it to shape federal plans to end homelessness.The U.S Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH) is currently working to revise the federal government’s plan for work on homelessness, and has already consulted at length with a number of national organizations, including the NAEH.

Among the NAEH's priorities for the next strategic plan are:
  • Committing to Housing First approaches
  • Avoiding criminalization of homelessness, since time spent incarcerated makes a person more likely to be homeless longer
  • Reinforcing the use of data related to outcomes in order to drive decisions about setting priorities
  • Protecting Equal Access to shelter and homeless services so that people who have, for example, faced racism or transphobia and have become homeless as a result have a fair chance to escape homelessness
  • Advancing a federal budget that will allow effective programs and systems to serve everyone who needs help
Contributing public input can have a significant impact on how federal policy will reflect the goal to make homelessness brief, rare, and non-recurring. At such a moment, it’s critical that we recognize this opportunity, and use it to shape policies and plans that will end homelessness.”

The RFTH serves many roles. We are an infrastructure organization for homeless policies and best practices, a collective impact body, the HMIS database manager, a facilitator and convener, a funder, and an advocacy organization.

The call from the NAEH to comment is our advocacy work in action. We have been active in this area for some time, but in the last few months we have stepped more fully into this work. Please see our statements on racial equity and action

It is critically important to speak up and be heard and there has never been a time like this to make serious headway nationally, statewide and locally. We have more momentum, political will and coordination than I have ever seen. We must act and use this opportunity wisely. 

Finally, I share these inspiring words given at Senator John Lewis’s funeral:

“If we would honor and celebrate John Lewis’s life let us then recommit our souls, our hearts, our minds, our spirits to dismantle the wrongs in our midst.”   - Rev. James Lawson Jr.

Be Courageous. Be Safe. Be Well.

Sincerely,



Tamera Kohler
Chief Executive Officer
New Staff to Welcome to the RTFH!
 
The RTFH would like to welcome two new team members to the leadership team.

Jill Hroziencik, Chief Program Officer

Jill Hroziencik comes to RTFH, as Chief Program Officer, with 30 years in the field of homelessness and building systems targeted in under-served communities.  Her previous experience includes overseeing the City and County of San Francisco’s Continuum of Care, ESG, and Veteran and Housing Ladder programs. She has also been a Technical Assistance provider for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and direct service provider for supportive housing, emergency shelters and tenant’s rights advocate projects.  Although new to our RTFH staff, Jill is not new to San Diego - some may recognize her from her work as one of our HUD TA providers in 2017 and 2018. We are excited to have Jill's expertise guiding our work.


Kris Kuntz, Chief Policy Officer 

Prior to joining the RTFH, Kris worked at LeSar Development Consultants providing consulting and technical assistance to a variety of public, non-profit, and healthcare organizations in San Diego, across the state and country on addressing homelessness. Before consulting, Kris worked for many years at Father Joe’s Villages in various capacities that included managing housing and services programs, training and evaluation, and was an integral part of Project 25, San Diego’s Housing First frequent user pilot.

In addition to his work on homelessness, Kris was an adjunct faculty in the Sociology Department at San Diego City College for five years. He was born and raised in San Diego and is passionate and excited to be part of the momentum to end homelessness in his hometown. Outside of work, Kris spends most of his time with his wife and two kids going to the beach, coaching baseball and soccer teams, and hanging out in his North Park neighborhood.


The RTFH has also hired a Data Analyst, who is welcomed to the team!

Anna Strahl, Data Analyst

Anna Strahl graduated from University of California, Berkeley with a BA in Political Science and began an eight-year career as a math teacher by travelling to the Mississippi Delta with Teach for America. After her two-year commitment was done in Mississippi, she returned to San Diego and taught at local public schools in City Heights and Downtown San Diego where she piloted several data initiatives to better track student growth. It was this dive into student data that sparked a passion for data analysis and at the beginning of 2020 she made the official career change to focus on data full-time as a Data Analyst. She is excited to bring her love of data to RTFH and is happy to be helping her local community. In her free time, she enjoys painting, gardening, and improv.

Statement on Racial Inequality and Action

Addressing racial inequality within the effort to end homelessness is a significant and complex process. The RTFH is committed to ensuring racial equity with the homeless crisis response system and is working with the community to do so. We have begun to address this significant and long overdue discussion and problem, and are committed to listening and engaging with partners, stakeholders, and community members on additional action as equity is core to the work of ending homelessness. It is part of the work that our organization completes to be able to shine a light on these types of inequalities, and we will continue to support our region in efforts to eliminate them.

Last year, the RTFH published a CoC Racial Disparity Report and held training for the CoC, in the beginning of this year, the RTFH adopted Policy Guidelines for Regional Response for Addressing Unsheltered Homelessness and Encampments. Resources from National Partners and more information about our work on addressing this can be found on our webpage.

During the July RTFH Board meeting, an Ad Hoc committee was created under the direction of Board Members Jo Barrett and Sean Elo, who chair this committee on Addressing Homelessness Among Black San Diegans. They have initiated a survey to encourage community engagement. This survey should be taken by anyone who would like to have their voices heard. The survey can be taken here until August 20th, and the responses will help to guide this work.                                    

City of San Diego’s COVID-19 Emergency Rental Assistance Program  
 
Please see important information about his new COVID-19 Emergency Rental Assistance Program in the City of San Diego: https://covidapplication.sdhc.org/

The City of San Diego’s COVID-19 Emergency Rental Assistance Program helps individuals and families with low income in the City of San Diego who experience financial hardship due to COVID-19.  The program will provide one-time payments of up to $4,000 per qualifying household to help pay past-due and/or upcoming rent. The San Diego Housing Commission (SDHC) administers this program on behalf of the City of San Diego.

Who Can Receive Help?
  • Households that meet the following requirements are eligible for help:
  • A City of San Diego address.
  • Household income in January 2020, at or below 60 percent of the San Diego Area Median Income ($64,200 per year or less for a family of four).
  • Eligible immigration status (U.S. citizen/U.S. National, lawful permanent resident/conditional permanent resident, a refugee/person seeking asylum or granted asylum).
  • Financial hardship directly related to COVID-19.
  • NOT currently receiving any rental subsidies.
  • NOT currently a tenant of an SDHC-owned/managed property.
  • Household savings do NOT meet the household’s financial need.
For more information on the COVID-19 Emergency Rental Assistance Program please refer to the following:
We anticipate a great deal of interest in this program and a very high demand for these funds, and we encourage you to work quickly with your clients to ensure they have information about this program.
Meal Distribution Pilot Program

The RTFH partnered with The Lucky Duck Foundation to initiate a Meal Distribution Pilot that began on May 4, 2020. Our RTFH Community Outreach Coordinator, JennaMarie Glenna, coordinated with community Outreach teams to pick up 800 meals on Mondays and Wednesdays, and 1,400 meals on Fridays. Meals were initially made by the Neighborhood House Association, and Outreach teams initially included San Diego Downtown PartnershipAlpha Project, the City of Chula VistaCrisis House, and Home Start location and later included, NAMI, and Vista Hill Central and South.

There was a greater need for distribution of meals, resulting in the Lucky Duck Foundation partnering with the San Diego Sheriff's Department to make the meals and drop them off at a new location in Miramar. The number of meals distributed increased to 1,600 on Mondays and Wednesdays and 2,400 on Fridays. This resulted in the need for additional Outreach teams, and teams from VVSD, the Navigation Center and NAMI joined in the Meal Distribution Pilot. In mid-June, the meals were increased again to 2,120 on Mondays and Wednesdays and 3,180 on Fridays, and the coordination with additional outreach teams included McAlister Institute and the Youth Assistance Coalition. By the end of June, this effort has led to 580 unsheltered individuals being fed daily with the final meal count at 2,320 meals on Mondays and Wednesdays and 3,480 meals on Fridays.

We would like to thank all of the Outreach teams currently partaking in this much needed program. The RTFH encourages anyone that is interested in joining this effort to please reach out to Drew Moser with The Lucky Duck Foundation at drewm@luckyduckfoundation.org  
COVID-19 Convention Center Update

 
The Union Tribune published an article on August 2, 2020 that highlights the partnership between RTFH, the City of San Diego, San Diego County, and providers that has resulted in significant progress of housing the homeless. Despite the challenges of the coronavirus pandemic, San Diego has made advances toward housing those experiencing homelessness with Operation Shelter to Home at the San Diego Convention Center (SDCC).

The RTFH, the City of San Diego, and San Diego County established a setting that is not only person-centered, but person central.  The design of SDCC allows for everyone to work under one roof and it has resulted in the development of a system that streamlined processes, had more efficient communication, and had better alignment of data provided by the Coordinated Entry System (CES) and HMIS.
 
System navigators were also introduced to assist people in not only connecting to the appropriate services, but maintaining contact throughout the entire process of being matched to a housing resource, finding appropriate housing, and moving into housing. Of the initial 765 people transferred from shelters to SDCC, only 50 were matched with housing resources, such as vouchers or rent subsidy programs. Three months later, 600 of the 1,200 people in SDCC have been matched with housing resources and 300 people have moved into housing. It is projected that 700 may have moved into housing by the end of September.

You can read the full article here.
RTFH Funding
COVID-19 Emergency Funding 
The San Diego Continuum of Care (CoC) was allocated $1.7 million of COVID-19 Emergency Funding from the State of California. This funding was dedicated in partnership with the City of San Diego and the San Diego County to support physical distancing in congregate settings, specifically Operation Shelter to Home at the San Diego Convention Center. 
Homeless Housing Assistance and Prevention Program (HHAP)
The Homeless Housing, Assistance and Prevention (HHAP) is a $650 million one-time block grant that provides local jurisdictions with funds to support regional coordination and expand or develop local capacity to address their immediate homelessness challenges. The RTFH has not dedicated HHAP funds at this time. The RTFH is committed to continued prioritization of regional distribution of funds and intends to use HHAP funds to support the ongoing efforts of HEAP, YHDP, and any additional funding gaps identified during community engagement sessions. The RTFH plans to schedule community engagement sessions late fall/early spring  (pending COVID-19 guidance) and will release a Request for Proposals (RFP) following those sessions.
Homeless Emergency Aid Program (HEAP)
The Homeless Emergency Aid Program (HEAP) is a one-time funding opportunity intended to provide immediate emergency assistance to people experiencing homelessness or who are at imminent risk of homelessness in San Diego County. On June 1, 2020, the RTFH issued HEAP Year 2 letters for contracts to be renewed for June 1, 2020-June 30, 2021. Some updates include: 
  • The RTFH is requiring Requests for Reimbursement and monthly reports to be submitted monthly, due to the State increasing reporting periods from annually to quarterly.
  • Grantees received one on one TA by the RTFH Grants and Contracts Manager Heidi Kone, to review year 1 expenditures and outcomes and potential budget modifications
  • Grantees may submit a request to change the scope of work/and or budget, due to the impacts of COVID-19
  • Guidance from the State has included assessing unspent funds and repurposing dollars where appropriate to respond to COVID-19 needs.
  • The RTFH will begin hosting monthly Office Hour calls for HEAP grantees

Youth Homelessness Demonstration Program (YHPD)
In our focus on building youth-driven ecosystem of care, the vision of YHDP is that by 2024, all youth experiencing homelessness have safe and stable homes where their journey to independence is supported (from the CCP: Community Plan to End Youth Homeless)

The strategy for the CCP is to provide continuum of housing resources, support permanent connections, connect to improvements (i.e. education) and utilize outreach, prevention, and diversion strategies, and measure progress and make adjustments over the 2 year period. San Diego was awarded the largest grant in the country – $4 million each year for 2 years. The first performance measures will be pulled this month to be reviewed with YHDP teams, and dashboards will be created and put up on the website soon. 
Flexible Housing Pool
The Flexible Housing Pool (FHP) is a mechanism by which a centralized regional operator coordinates housing resources, establishes consistent approaches to engaging landlords, and provides support to tenants and landlords. RTFH has committed $1.8 million in funding to the FHP, the County of San Diego has dedicated $400,000, and the City of Carlsbad Homeless Response Plan has also dedicated $400,000 to the FHP.

Brilliant Corners has been selected as the Operator for the San Diego region's FHP. Brilliant Corners has been a long-time operator of the LA County Flexible Housing Subsidy Pool, a national model that has attracted significant public, private, and healthcare funding. They also operate a Flexible Housing Pool in San Francisco with a large philanthropic partner, and operate Flex Pools with Medi-Cal health plans in San Bernardino/Riverside Counties and San Mateo County.

Some of the key things they will be working on to move forward include a first year focus engaging landlords to remove units from public/private sources in existing market to create pool of available units with proposed priority populations for the first year of Veterans with a HUD VASH Subsidy or SSVF, individuals and families enrolled in CoC funded PSH and RRH, youth enrolled in YHDP programs, and those who are exiting shelters.

We are most fortunate to work with this organization in our community, and will provide updates as we are able to on this work. 
                           
         CoC General Membership Meeting
     
 
During the June Membership meeting, the Membership voted on the annual ratification of the Charter, the Board Slate, and Service Provider Seats, which are outlined in more detail in the next section on the Board of Directors. This year there was a strong slate put forward, and those who were not elected are highly encouraged to join committees.

There was no meeting during the month of July, and there is a CoC General Membership Meeting that was just held on August 13th. More information about this meeting will be posted soon. Please see the RTFH's Events Calendar for updated dates and times.

Board of Directors

An RTFH Board Retreat was held in June, and the next general meeting was held on July 16th. The Board Slate that was put forth by the CoC Membership has been ushered in by the Board, and the results are as follows: 
 
 Ratify the changes to the RTFH Governance Charter?  Yes
 Ratify the 2020 Board Slate for the Appointed
 Board Seats, the Non-Service Provider Board Seats,
 and the Elected Official Board Seat?
 Yes
 Homeless Service Provider Board Seat - General  Deacon Jim Vargas
 Homeless Service Provider Board Seat - North Coastal  Greg Anglea
 Homeless Service Provider Board Seat - South  Kathryn Lembo

We welcome these changes, such as including the Youth voice in the Charter. You can find a complete list on our website: https://www.rtfhsd.org/who-we-are/board-of-directors/ 
HMIS Highlights

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 admin and approved. Advanced Registration is required, and you can click the link here link here to register: https://forms.gle/Wbqs5t3jnxygARNb9

For more information, please refer to the “HMIS Training and Support” section on the HMIS page.

The San Diego Convention Center Shelter:
Marine Corps Recruit Depot Operations Model
 
   
 

 
  

With a lower number of individuals testing positive for COVID-19, the Marine Corps Recruit Depot (MCRD) of San Diego visited Operation Shelter to Home at the San Diego Convention Center to understand how the City, County and other partners have worked together to prevent and reduce the spread of the virus. As of July 23, only ten cases have been discovered at the Convention Center that supports 1,200 unsheltered individuals daily, so this Operation serves as a successful model that could be replicated to protect our Marines.

Led by City of San Diego and County representatives, the MCRD toured the Convention Center to learn more about shelter operations, physical distancing protocols, disease prevention/mitigation efforts, and all safety measures set in place for shelter clients, staff, and volunteers. Learning about this high-standard model, carried out with compassion for people who protect these vulnerable populations, is viewed by the MCRD team as an excellent representation  for how our community comes together during times of crisis.

Some of the efforts include daily screenings of clients and staff, washing and sanitizing surfaces and hands, and wearing face masks. Additionally, prevention and safety announcements are made as needed. Other efforts that make a large impact are the evaluation and isolating of individuals exhibiting symptoms of illness, along with reinforcing compliance among residents and staff.

The MCRD supports the 6,000 recruits in San Diego who have begun training since the pandemic began and who are quarantined for 14 days after arrival. As the pandemic continues, they seek more cost-effective housing and medical supplies for as needed for large groups. This can be found in the Operation Shelter to Home model, a best practice that can be replicated to keep recruits, instructors, and their families healthy and safe. We would like to welcome the recruits to San Diego and wish them all the best in their efforts.   

Housing Our Youth

Housing our Youth is a county initiative, initiated by Supervisor Greg Cox, with a focus on housing efforts with goal of ending homelessness for all youth through a fully integrated and coordinated system to afford these vulnerable youth with opportunities to succeed later in life. The RTFH has been identified as a partner for this SD County 1 initiative.  

The program will help people who are under the age of 24, and will prioritize former foster youth who are pregnant or parenting, former foster youth generally and at-risk homeless youth. You can learn about this initiative by clicking here.
Public Input: Revision of the Federal Strategic Plan
to Prevent and End Homelessness
As CEO Tamera Kohler mentioned in her opening to this newsletter, the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH) held an open public comment period to seek input on revising Home Together: The Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness. The RTFH consulted with our partners including Funders Together to End Homelessness San Diego to align our input and provide feedback that reflects many of the best practices that we know work and are currently implementing as well as needs and gaps that exist in San Diego to solve homelessness.

This letter submitted by the RTFH included the following recommendations to be included in the revised plan:
  • Increasing affordable housing as a top priority;
  • For the USICH to continue to be a leader in advocating for evidenced-based solutions; and a continued commitment to the current federal plan.
  • Include persons with lived experience in all aspects of policy making, funding, and program design;
  • Promote the equitable distribution and flexibility of resources;
  • Address racial disparities and promote equity;
  • Address unsheltered homelessness through compassionate person-centered and housing-focused services rather than enforcement or other activities that may criminalize homelessness;
  • Halt attempts to remove protections for marginalized populations including LGBTQ persons and undocumented immigrants; and
  • Align Housing and Services funding and programming
In addition to the input provided to the USICH on the federal plan, the RTFH has also been doing some important federal, state, and local advocacy work particularly as it relates to increased funding during this unprecedented time. The RTFH, along with several youth originations, provided an advocacy letter to Senators Feinstein and Harris for funding youth and families, submitted a public comment to the state Department of Health Care Services (DHCS) on the 1115 Waiver extension that would continue to fund needed health and behavioral health services for low-income and vulnerable populations, and with organizations across California we signed onto an advocacy letter addressed to Speaker Pelosi to include housing and homelessness funding within the HEROES Act.
The RTFH, The Downtown San Diego Partnership (DSDP) Homeless Outreach Team, and several homeless Service Providers are increasing coordinated outreach events to include a resource-driven event every Tuesday in four highly populated locations. By conducting consistent outreach each week, the unsheltered population is able to easily access services without barriers, like transportation. The purpose of the Tuesday outreach events is for Homeless Service Providers and Medical/Behavioral Health Providers to partner and provide on-site services to meet basic needs and address barriers preventing people from finding permanent housing solutions.
 
RTFH and SDPD HOT Coordinated Outreach events will continue to be held on Thursday mornings.

 
For more information on outreach events, please contact JennaMarie Glenna, RTFH Outreach Coordinator at  jennamarie.glenna@rtfhsd.org or Ketra Carter, DSDP Program Manager  at  kcarter@improvedtsd.org.
Voices of our City Choir on "America's Got Talent"
For those of you who have not already heard, the Voices of our City Choir has been on national television! The Choir performed their original song on this year’s America’s Got Talent, and was this season’s first selection for the host’s “golden buzzer,” which means that they are safe from elimination until later in the summer. What a tremendous opportunity, and we wish them all the luck! You can access the Choir’s performance as has been shared here on YouTube.
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