A few weeks ago, I had breakfast with a local homeless advocate who’d seen an intriguing stat in the San Francisco Chronicle. The article estimated that San Francisco’s expenditures on homeless services top $200 million annually.

What’s the number in San Diego County, my companion wondered. (San Francisco’s government is a combined city/county, unlike our divided jurisdictions here.)

We’ve been wrapping our minds around numbers that estimate how many people in San Diego are homeless, as part of the first phase of our quest. Our next step is to try to round up approximately how much is being spent to combat homelessness here, including private dollars and government funds.

For one, it’d help to know the size of the whole pie when we’re talking about individual programs and projects. Connections Housing cost $38 million to build. The downtown winter tent shelter costs about $400,000 to run each winter. Without context, it’s hard to discern where these numbers fit.

Determining an amount will also go a long way toward helping us evaluate what’s being done, what the relationship between government and philanthropy is and where gaps exist.

The latest number I can find that gets us close is from this 2006 report:

In 2005, approximately $70 million in public funds have been allocated to programs that serve the homeless in San Diego County. Funding was provided via direct cash assistance and through a number of programs such as transitional shelters and mental health services.

That’s not counting emergency services, like when someone uses the emergency room at a hospital. Nor does that number cover nonprofit and private groups’ budgets.

The County of San Diego alone spent more than $205 million on “programs targeted specifically for homeless or at risk of being homeless” in the last budget year. I got that number from Barbara Jiminez, deputy director for south and central regions for the county’s Health and Human Services Agency. That includes $87 million from her agency, she said; the rest comes from the county’s housing agency. We’ll break those numbers into more detail in a future post.

Meanwhile, I could use your help. What numbers should I be looking for?

Here are the budgets I’m going to try to tally so far:

• City of San Diego, the region’s other 17 cities, County of San Diego

• Veteran’s Affairs

• Private funding for service providers like Father Joe’s, Rescue Mission, Catholic Charities, United Way

• Downtown San Diego Partnership

• University programs

What else should I look for? Any tips or questions are welcome: kelly@vosd.org

I’m Kelly Bennett, reporter for Voice of San Diego. You can reach me directly at kelly.bennett@voiceofsandiego.org or 619.325.0531.

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Disclosure: Voice of San Diego members and supporters may be mentioned or have a stake in the stories we cover. For a complete list of our contributors, click here.

Kelly Bennett is a former staff writer for Voice of San Diego.

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