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I went to a press conference this morning for the unveiling of a new public awareness campaign tied to the region’s Plan to End Chronic Homelessness, which aims to provide 1,600 housing units combined with supportive services.

Brian Maienschein, the plan’s commissioner for the United Way, echoed some comments he made this summer about the economics of this effort. The idea that housing the homeless costs too much is a myth, he said.

“The reality is that not housing the homeless costs more,” he said.

Maienschein announced the rebranding of the outreach and public awareness campaign with a new name: Home Again.

“PTECH doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue,” he said.

The slogan for Home Again’s campaign: “Open a door.”

The gimmick: A green key given to donors, advocates and volunteers to symbolize the effort to “open more doors” to permanently house chronically homeless individuals.

Individuals are considered chronically homeless if they have a disabling condition and have either been homeless continually for a year or have been homeless at least four times in the past three years. They often have some kind of disability. That subpopulation is a minority in the homeless population, but eats up a significant portion of the homeless support resources.

Maienschein and two of the United Way’s grantees, the Alpha Project’s Bob McElroy and San Diego Rescue Mission’s Herb Johnson, summed up new programs launched this year.

In total, 66 chronically homeless individuals have been placed in permanent housing since the United Way granted $800,000 to five local nonprofits earlier this year, Maienschein said.

Johnson said the Rescue Mission has served 56 clients in its recuperative care unit, where homeless individuals released from the hospital can recover in a clean environment with medical attention.

He said one woman who came through the unit this year had been released to the streets even though she still had a drainage tube in her side and an infected incision. Her time at in the recuperative unit gave her a place from which to apply for public benefits and get the follow-up surgeries she needed, he said.

Maienschein said he hopes the new campaign will translate into donations for providing more permanent supportive housing. The marketing and rebranding consulting was done pro bono by a couple of local firms, Farm and JWalcher Communications, he said.

— KELLY BENNETT

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