District Attorney Summer Stephan / File photo by Megan Wood

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We pulled this post from the March 15 Morning Report.

County supervisors on Tuesday signed off on District Attorney Summer Stephan’s push to create a phone app to link homeless San Diegans with shelter beds.

The goal for the $300,000 pilot is to create a system that informs outreach workers and others in real time what shelter beds are available that meet unhoused residents’ needs. The Union-Tribune has more details on Stephan’s vision.

Stephan said she has worked with stakeholders, including the Regional Task Force on Homelessness, to shape plans for the app. Now with supervisors’ approval, she said she’s preparing to approach cities about the concept. She expects the app could launch within six months and include shelters countywide by the end of the year.

Stephan acknowledged in an interview with Voice of San Diego that the city of San Diego, home to the largest share of the region’s unhoused population and shelters, has yet to officially sign on. She expects the city to ultimately come on board.

“I think what we are producing is a product that is well thought out, and that I just feel very confident that the city of San Diego would want to hear it out and would want to examine it, and see if it can complement all of the great efforts that they are embarking on,” Stephan said.

Why It’s a Little Awkward: The city and its Housing Commission, which operate more than a dozen shelter programs, more than a year ago established their own process to connect homeless residents with shelter beds. Service providers, police officers and workers at the Homelessness Response Center share details on people who want beds and workers at the response center identify the option that best meets their needs.

A spokesman for the Housing Commission, which oversees that referral process, said the city agency participated in some early meetings about the project and welcomes resources that increase shelter access – though he also noted the agency has already been working on that.

“SDHC already is experiencing real-time direct placement through the Coordinated Shelter Intake Program in the city of San Diego and will engage with the county to share best practices to help the app become a comparable resource,” SDHC spokesman Scott Marshall wrote in an email.

Crucial Context: Many referrals via the city’s Homelessness Response Center ultimately don’t result in an immediate shelter placement, often because beds aren’t available that fit homeless residents’ needs. This is a predicament Stephan’s app could also face. She told Voice the app could help the region identify the kinds of shelter that the region needs to add.

“At the end of the day, I’m just predicting that we have some real shortages, but it’s going to pinpoint for us what type of shortages that we have,” Stephan said.

Lisa Halverstadt

Lisa is a senior investigative reporter who digs into some of San Diego's biggest challenges including homelessness, city real estate debacles, the region's...

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  1. With the scandals coming out of the county jail system, Summer trots out this “proposal” merely to deflect.

  2. It is mystifying to me why the DA is getting involved in this conundrum. What we need it a coordinated, focused approach; not a free-for-all with every elected official implementing their own pet strategy. And how, exactly, are homeless services in the area of responsibility of the DA?

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