Financial assistance

La Mesa’s homelessness program progresses


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Finding a home for a couple and their young daughter who lived in a broken down van is one of the early successes of La Mesa’s new mobile homeless engagement program.

The program is an initiative of the City of La Mesa, in conjunction with the La Mesa Police Department and People Assisting the Homeless, also known as PATH, a group that the city hired last September and tasked with help homeless people in the city find housing, gain access to services and connect to resources.

Launched last November under the leadership of its founder, La Mesa Police Captain Matt Nicholass, the program helps those most in need access services. HOME offers a housing-focused, trauma-informed approach to tackling homelessness in La Mesa.

According to the latest report provided by La Mesa Police Chief Ray Sweeney, from April to June, the HOME team contacted 75 homeless people, including 58 men. HOME enrolled 42 adults and two children in the program and reported that 13 have found temporary or permanent homes.

Of the 13, five households moved out to temporary accommodation – defined as emergency shelter, transitional housing, or other location that provides housing / shelter without tenure. Seven households – a total of eight people – have moved into permanent accommodation, defined as a rental unit that meets the occupancy standards of the US Department of Housing and Urban Development. Some received support 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 relatives of the family member, the HOME team was able to intervene and come to their aid.

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

While the van was being repaired, the HOME team arranged for accommodation on the bridge with a hotel voucher. The family was then matched with a housing provider who helped the family find an affordable apartment and moved into it with up to a year of rent assistance.

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

“I think the home-based program did what it intended to do – put experts on the streets to help those who need it most and rebuild families,” Sweeney said Wednesday. “HOME is a wonderful addition to the city. Its success keeps officers on the streets so they can focus on the crime and get involved in the community.

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

HOME program staff operate from the police department headquarters in downtown La Mesa and respond to non-emergency roaming-related service calls that are generated by police dispatch, with the appropriate calls answered. charge by a specialist in the HOME approach. Police officers or the psychiatric emergency response team are only called upon in rare cases involving legal or safety concerns.

The group is prioritizing the most vulnerable people in La Mesa, including those at increased risk of complications from COVID-19, households with children and those facing chronic homelessness.

HOME also helps people overcome challenges that prevent them from finding and securing a place to live, such as job loss due to COVID-19 lockdowns, lack of money for a rental deposit, need credit repair, help with finding a job. HOME program staff organize trips to apartment tours, shelter stays, program admission interviews and other critical appointments through the carpooling service.

Since operations began in November, HOME program staff have provided some form of financial and / or basic needs assistance to all registered customers to accommodate them and keep them safe during the pandemic. Sweeney’s report says HOME program staff distributed nearly $ 5,000 in direct financial assistance, including vehicle repairs, storage fees, and funds used to secure new rental units.

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