On Nov. 18, Voice of San Diego ran an error-filled piece by Angela Santora about Father Joe’s Villages with the usual footnote: “See anything in there we should fact check?”

I don’t know where to start. The uninformed comments in the op-ed are ill-considered during a process that is inherently difficult and extremely sensitive. There are so many glaringly false statements about Father Joe’s Villages’ staff and the futures of these young people that I am obligated to once again provide a complete explanation of the facts.

Since Voice of San Diego irresponsibly published this piece that ignores the facts that we’ve already delivered to the public and to our partners, I hope readers will appreciate and take comfort in the following clarification.

As we announced earlier this year, Father Joe’s Villages is investing in more permanent housing to address the largest barrier to solving homelessness in our community – a shortage of housing options. The organization is also re-focusing existing programs to maintain its most effective services to end homelessness. These shifts in programming are part of an ongoing strategy to focus on the most pressing needs of people experiencing homelessness in San Diego.

Unfortunately, these important changes require tough choices, one of which is that the building known as Toussaint will adapt to support young adults ages 18 – 24, a population it has always served. While the foster care system provides critical support for children and teens, consequences can be dire for young people who no longer receive this assistance after age 18. This is why Toussaint will continue to focus on these transition-age youth by providing permanent housing and on-site supportive services.

Contrary to the inaccurate statements in the recent opinion piece, Father Joe’s Villages is deeply committed to ensuring the wellbeing of teens from Toussaint through this transition and beyond. Staff members from Father Joe’s Villages are working one-on-one with each teen to identify the best transition plan for each youth and to support them before, during and after their move from Toussaint. Our administrative staff, case managers, mental health staff and chaplaincy staff have all been part of the teens’ support system during this transition.

Each teen has an individualized plan that details next steps. Father Joe’s Villages staff are in daily contact with the teens, updating them, talking through their needs and desires in order to find a next step that is the best choice for the teen. The teens at Toussaint are minors. It is our mandate to protect and respect them and their privacy; therefore we cannot share more specific details with the public.

In addition, Father Joe’s Villages will continue to support these teens well after they move out of Toussaint. Aftercare services and scholarships have always been provided to Toussaint youth to support their transitions into college and young adulthood – and this remains true for these teens. Through aftercare services, teens will be able to continue relying on Father Joe’s Villages in the years to come for support in areas ranging from college scholarships and financial aid application assistance to connections with additional supportive services.

The decision to end the Toussaint program as it has operated was not an easy one. It was, however, the most responsible decision. Toussaint was both the most underfunded and the most expensive program to run per person served. Unfortunately, it could no longer be sustained. This shift will help retain Father Joe’s Villages’ ability to provide the most comprehensive services possible for those struggling with homelessness in our community.

Father Joe’s Villages believes that homelessness is solvable. The fundamental issue is one of resources and we rely on community support. In 2015 alone, our agency helped more than 800 teens, families, men and women, including veterans, seniors and people with disabilities off San Diego’s streets and into permanent housing. Father Joe’s Villages could have helped more if it had the resources, but simply stated, it just didn’t have the funding.

After more than 65 years of addressing this problem and working with countless individuals and families, Father Joe’s Villages can say with certainty that the way to effectively deal with homelessness in our community is to invest in the housing and services needed to help our homeless neighbors reach self-sufficiency.

Father Joe’s Villages has a proven track record of implementing solutions that work — strategic, research-based programs that help those in need and improve our community overall — programs designed to not only get people off the streets, but also to connect them to the support and services they need to achieve permanent independence. With the right support from the community, the journey to independence is possible.

To learn more about the changes at Toussaint, please click here. To learn more about Father Joe’s Villages’ four new scattered-site permanent housing programs, please click here.

Deacon Jim Vargas is president and CEO of Father Joe’s Villages. Vargas’commentary has been edited for style and clarity. See anything in there we should fact check? Tell us what to check out here.


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