San Diego Housing Commission: Housing–The Ultimate Need

November 14, 2015

In November 2014, the San Diego Housing Commission (SDHC) announced the Homelessness Action Plan, a five-point strategy aimed at helping an estimated 1,500 homeless San Diego residents over a period of three years using the Housing First model. The five points as listed on the SDHC website are:

  1. Renovate the historical Hotel Churchill to create 72 affordable studios for homeless veterans and youth aging out of the foster care system;
  2. Award up to $30 million over the next three years to create Permanent Supportive Housing that will remain affordable for 55 years;
  3. Commit up to 1,500 federal rental housing vouchers to provide housing to homeless individuals and families;
  4. Invest up to $15 million from the federal “Moving to Work” rental assistance program to acquire a property that will set aside 20 percent of its units for Permanent Supportive Housing for homeless San Diegans; and
  5. Dedicate 25 of SDHC’s own affordable units to temporarily provide furnished apartments for homeless individuals and families. SDHC is one of the first public housing agencies in the nation to commit affordable rental housing that it owns for this purpose.

The Housing First approach allows for homeless individuals and families to bypass transitional housing and the completion of rehabilitative services needed to “demonstrate housing readiness”. Some may wonder, how could permanent housing be the end all solution for those experiencing chronic homelessness (homeless a year or more with a disabling condition or addiction)? It is important to understand that “housing first” is not synonymous with “housing only”. Homeless service providers that implement the Housing First model place clients in permanent housing to first solve their ulitmate need—housing. Providers then offer support services and case management to help their clients gain independence.

The United States Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH) defines the Housing First model as: “an approach that offers permanent, affordable housing as quickly as possible for individuals and families experiencing homelessness, and then provides the supportive services and connections to the community-based supports people need to keep their housing and avoid returning to homelessness.”

Housing First is not only a successful model for helping to reduce the number of people experiencing chronic homelessness, but it is also a more cost effective solution. Just check out some of the numbers below:


Utah was the first state to implement a Housing First policy.

  • 2005 − 1,932 chronically homeless people were counted
  • 2015 − 1,764 people have been housed, leaving 178 chronically homeless

New York City, New York

  • 2011 − 4,677 chronically homeless veterans were counted
  • 2015 − 1,645 chronically homeless veterans remain to be housed

Phoenix, Arizona

  • 2008 − 222 chronically homeless veterans were counted
  • 2011 − Phoenix becomes the first city to end chronic veteran homelessness using the Housing First model

Charlotte, North Carolina

Homeless service provider, Moore Place, provided permanent supportive housing to 85 chronically homeless adults in their first year of implementing the Housing First model.

  • Clients saved $1.8 million in medical expenses
  • Emergency room visits were reduced by 78%
  • Hospital stays were reduced by 79%

San Diego, California

  • 2011 − Father Joe’s Villages and United Way launch Housing First pilot program Project 25 with $1.5 million dollars in funding to house and support 36 chronically homeless adults.
  • 2012 – Medical expenses for adults were reduced from $3.5 million to $1.5 million
  • 2013 – Medical expenses were reduced from $1.5 million to $1.1 million

As of November 2015, the SDHC is well underway with the renovation of the historic Hotel Churchill. The revitalized housing structure will be renamed The Churchill and include 56 units for veterans and 16 units for foster youth transitioning out of the foster care system. The targeted completion is June 2016.

U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro also paid a visit to the renovation site in October and commended San Diego on their efforts and implementation of the Housing First approach to help end chronic homelessness.

For more information on the SDHC click here to view their latest digital progress report or visit the link below.