National City approves moving funds to be used on homeless services

The National City City Council approved a resolution for Permanent Local Housing Allocations funding which shifts $115,990 of previously unused funds from year one over to year two, and adds in a new budget appropriation of $400,000.

The spending plan, approved as part of the resolution, authorizes $60,000 of the PLHA funding for Alpha Project and $440,711 for the McAlister Institute. According to the resolution, those two distributions are to be spent on “homeless outreach, case management, emergency housing, and other housing services” for people experiencing homelessness and those at-risk of becoming homeless.”

National City Director of Housing Authority Carlos Aguirre said the local PLHA funding has facilitated leveraging state funding to apply for federal funding intended for homeless outreach.

Housing Authority Programs Manager Angelita Palma said the PHLA funding is available through California State Bill 2 and is intended to provide a permanent and ongoing source of funding to local governments for housing-related projects and programs to address homelessness.

Years one and two of the PHLA funding is set aside for outreach, case management and rental assistance.

In 2021, year one of the PHLA funding, National City spent $19,659 on grant administration, $58,982 on outreach and case management through Alpha Project and $198,560 on motel vouchers, bus passes, transportation and outreach through McAlister Institute.

Community Through Hope was subcontracted through the McAlister Institute.
Palma broke down the year two plan to spend $15,279 on local grant administration, $190,000 on 6-month rental assistance, $289,261 on case management and $21,450 on street outreach for a total of $515,990.

The year two plan shows McAlister Institute would utilize $190,000 to subcontract with SBCS, formerly South Bay Community Services, a Chula Vista-based nonprofit social services agency.

Neighborhood Services Manager Ben Martinez said the city’s past approach has been to address and clean up over 120 homeless encampments, some duplicative, and coordinate outreach with CalTrans, the county of San Diego and other social service providers.

“We’re not just cleaning up rubbish and trash, but we also provide services. Sometimes, tucked inside all that garbage is a human being,” Martinez said.

Martinez said he’s gone out on a cold day to check on whether people camping on the streets are even alive.

Sometimes, he said, they are not.

During time for public comments, resident Joan Rincon said Community Through Hope should “stop soliciting donations because they have not completed compliance paperwork” for the California Attorney General’s office over the past three to four years.

“They also have not filed a tax return with the IRS since 2018,” Rincon said.
Rincon also said she is concerned that conversations surrounding homelessness focus on mental health issues and chronic substance abuse, when there is a crisis among families who are at risk of homelessness or living in cars and have a 50-50 chance of ending up on the streets.

City Council member Mona Rios suggested the city consider developing a clear path for residents to solicit help before they find themselves in dire need of help or risking homelessness. She also suggested developing a way to confirm feedback on homeless outreach is getting somewhere after residents submit online suggestions through see-click-fix or other electronic means.

“We need a way for people to know they are being heard even if they don’t speak to a live person,” Rios said.

City Council member Ron Morrison, who has since been sworn in as Mayor of National City said he is discouraged by increased homeless outreach spending in the city of San Diego while homelessness continues to increase. Moving forward, Morrison said, he would like to see a more detailed report from city staff on outcomes of funding, a way to determine whether the money being spent on combating homelessness is actually making a dent in National City’s statistics.

Then-Mayor Alejandra Sotelo-Solis said it is important for city staff, elected officials and residents to all develop a sense of vocabulary surrounding homelessness details so communication is effective and leads to better outcomes.

“When we talk about someone who is homeless, unsheltered— it’s important we use a common language. I’m not saying ‘be politically correct’ but be trauma-informed and accurate.

Sotelo-Solis also suggested creating a dashboard where personal information would remain confidential but housing success could be measured statistically and geographically, provide a sense of what efforts are working and where the city needs to apply different programming.

The resolution to redirect some of the year one PHLA funding, along with proposed year two spending allocations was unanimously approved.