HOMELESS OUTREACH TEAM MAKING A DIFFERENCE IN CHULA VISTA
Two years ago, the City of Chula Vista recognized an increase in homelessness in the City and implemented the Homeless Outreach Team (HOT) to specifically address the issue. HOT consists of a collaboration of City staff including the Chula Vista Police Department (CVPD), Public Works, and Parks and Recreation, along with several community partners. This multi-disciplinary group focuses on outreaching to the homeless population daily. Specific emphasis is made on Tuesdays when the group provides outreach to five City parks: Eucalyptus, Friendship, Harborside, Lauderbach, and Memorial.
Led by CVPD Lt. Henry Martin, HOT members include Sgt. Frank Giaime, Officer Jeff Pace, Officer Hugo Cardenas, Park Ranger Sam Alzubaidi, and a trained member from PERT (Psychiatric Emergency Response Team) who accompanies the group. Each Monday, unattended items left in City parks and other areas are tagged and if not moved within a specific time, the items are hauled away. On Tuesdays, HOT members meet in the parks for homeless outreach with their community partners including San Diego Family Health Center, McAlister Institute, Community Through Hope, Bay View Hospital, Scripps Hospital, South Bay Community Services, Veterans Affairs, South Bay Pioneers, East County Transitional Living Center, South Bay Guidance Center, and the San Diego County Health and Human Services Agency.
Homelessness is not a crime and homeless individuals cannot be forced out of a park or other location just because they are homeless. They are citizens who have rights just like any other citizen and the Chula Vista HOT treats them with dignity and respect while honoring its commitment to keep our neighborhoods safe. HOT breaks down barriers allowing the homeless to take their first steps on a path to recovery.
Since its inception, HOT has documented contact with 721 individuals making a positive impact in helping them off the streets. In the past year, the statistics are encouraging with ten homeless to rapid rehousing through South Bay Community Services; 22 to Project One for All; ten to KIVA (McAlister); ten to Alpha Project; 30 to East County Living Center; one to St. Paul’s Pace; two to Adelante mental health facility; two to the County’s Whole Person wellness program; ten to Traveler’s Aid; five to independent living facilities and five to South Bay Pioneers.
From January 2018 through August 2018, Park Rangers have removed 106,330 lbs. of trash and 1,033 shopping carts from various locations throughout the City.
A new aspect of the Chula Vista HOT in collaboration with McAlister Institute is the “Work for Hope” job training program. Funded by a $35,000 Kaiser Foundation Hospitals grant, selected homeless individuals are offered work such as graffiti removal, painting, and other beautification projects in the City. The Work for Hope participants are paid cash during a three day work week and offered vocational rehabilitation training, life skills instruction, and assistance with transportation, job readiness and possible housing. “This program has been a great success,” said Sgt. Giaime. “Other homeless individuals have seen the efforts and are asking how they can be put to work too. And that is our ultimate goal…to help them be productive members of society.”