County must collaborate on solving homeless issue

San Diego County Board of Supervisors Chair Nathan Fletcher started and ended his March 29 State Of the County speech with the same directive: county residents must work collaboratively.
Homelessness took top position in the address—Fletcher said county government has pushed back against homelessness in the past three years with Mobile Crisis Response Teams designed to streamline behavioral health outreach to unsheltered residents.
“We’re going to be opening up new crisis stabilization locations all over the county,” Fletcher said, and plan to staff facilities with individuals who have faced addiction in their own lives, “taking those who’ve walked the long road of addiction recovery” and putting them to work.
The county is utilizing a grant from the Lucky Duck Foundation, Fletcher said, to build a 150-bed shelter in the Midway District. Plans are also being developed for county-municipality partnerships in which cities provide a building and the county supplies staff to run localized homeless outreach centers, funded with $10 million in available grants.
Fletcher briefly touched on the pandemic, said San Diego county and the state of California “saved lives” through their choices.
“We had half the death toll of Florida,” Fletcher said, but families are now facing the challenge of economic recovery.
Wages, Fletcher said, have not kept up with prices. He would like to see the state budget surplus “provide for people in need” but did not specify exactly how he would like to see those dollars routed to best benefit constituents.
He would like the county to develop apprenticeship opportunities on county land, reverse any ban on private government partnerships, and build union jobs that would ostensibly lead to better planned retirements in later life.
“I’ve never met a senior with a pension who is living on the street,” Fletcher said,
alluding to post-retirement benefits of working at a unionized job.
Last year, he said, the county saw an increase in opioid-related overdoses, a trend that has held true for a decade. A lawsuit against Purdue Pharma is in the end stages, he said, with a settlement on the horizon.
“Together with Supervisor Joel Anderson, whose East County district has been hit the hardest, let’s plan before the funds are here,” Fletcher said, in order to move more quickly on solutions when money becomes available.
Additionally, the county is establishing a program for some residents to access county parks for free and utilize free camping equipment.