• Yizheng Wang

Homelessness in San Diego

Updated: Aug 21, 2020

According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness, California has the largest homeless population among all states in the United States, which is 151,278 in 2019. (NAEH, 2020) While the Golden State is making very little progress with tons of money pouring into homelessness, Mayor Kevin Faulconer is leading San Diego to a promising future.

As the second populous city in California, San Diego city has more than 5,000 homeless people, and almost half of them are unsheltered. Therefore, building shelters and lowering housing costs are priorities. The City Council of San Diego voted to waive impact fees for both “permanent supportive housing and transnational housing” for the homeless last year so that houses and apartments might be more affordable. Besides, Mayor Faulconer raised the idea of “bridge shelter”- a temporary place to help transition to a permanent housing. There are three Sprung structures opened with a capacity of about 700 beds. He also helped thousands of homeless find houses through various programs, namely the Landlord Engagement and Assistance Program (LEAP), and the Downtown San Diego Partnership’s Family Reunification Program. The former program provides benefits and incentives to landlords who are willing to rent their properties to homeless San Diegans while the latter one aims at reconnecting the homeless with their relatives who would like to house them.

Even so, more has to be done to reduce homelessness. Mayor Faulconer lists all the efforts the city has made over the last few years in an article published in the Hoover Institution. Homelessness is not just about the housing, but also about the public acceptance of homeless people. As Faulconer mentions, everyone fears crimes, trash, and people on their sidewalks in their communities, although they would agree to improve homeless services and build shelters. To eliminate such concerns, the city removed over 4,000 tons of trash and decreased the number of encampments along the San Diego river by 90 percent. Furthermore, Neighborhood Policing Division was created to prevent anyone who has experienced homelessness committing a crime.

Another problem is the disease that unsanitary conditions bring to the homeless and other San Diegans. The previous example was the hepatitis A outbreak, which resulted in 592 cases and 20 deaths in March 2017 in San Diego County. This appeared to be a more severe issue under the current pandemic as increasing mobility of the homeless will lead to the spread of coronavirus. To stop the virus spreading in communities, more than 1,300 homeless people are sheltered at the San Diego Convention Center. Six positive cases identified at the center were sent to hotel rooms for isolation.

It’s fair to say that San Diego city has done an excellent job so far. However, it comes at a price. Most people believe that the $7.1 million spending on homelessness during the COVID-19 pandemic is necessary. However, some would argue that $117 million annual homeless funding is too much to address this single issue, especially when the Corporation for Supportive Housing (CSH) estimates the cost of the permanent housing solution is $2 billion. This estimation is made under the condition of creating new permanent housing capacity over the next ten years. That being said, the city has to continue to spend money once the 10-year timeline has been reached. And the annual expenditure on services and maintenance will be over $136 million.

While the homelessness seems to be a bottomless problem, some start to worry that the homeless population will grow after the temporary ban on evictions expires in September. It’s going to be a new challenge for San Diego City. The good news is that we have a solution to completely change the fundamentals of this issue. Our approach would be building a self-sustainable homeless community, which the current homeless people can own and grow with the community. This is an ultimate way to build a sense of community among the homeless who will replace open drug use with diligent works to pay their own rents.


1. Faulconer, K. (2019, October 30). How San Diego Cleaned Up Its Act-And Got Real On Homelessness. Retrieved August 18, 2020, from

2. Sprung San Diego Homeless Bridge Shelters. (n.d.). Retrieved August 18, 2020, from

3. National Alliance to Endless Homelessness. (2020, May 13). SOH: State and CoC Dashboards. Retrieved August 18, 2020, from

4. The San Diego Union-Tribune Editorial Board. (2019, August 02). Take note, California: San Diego is showing progress on housing. Retrieved August 18, 2020, from

5. Slotnik, D. (2020, August 18). What Happened When Homeless Men Moved Into a Liberal Neighborhood. Retrieved August 19, 2020, from

6. Bowen, A., & Service, C. (2020, April 08). San Diego City Council Approves $3.7 Million State Grant For Homeless Coronavirus Safety. Retrieved August 19, 2020, from

7. Corporation for Supportive Housing. (2019, October 31). The City of San Diego Community Action Plan on Homelessness (Rep.). Retrieved August 19, 2020, from

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