Formula for Homeless Allocation Funds Fails San Diego

December 12, 2023

San Diego’s homeless assistance providers do an excellent job serving our unhoused individuals, but the Continuum of Care funding disparity limits their success. Congressman Peters is working to fix the flawed formula and secure additional resources to address homelessness.

Read more about it in this November 9th piece from Voice and Viewpoint, posted below:

Formula for Homeless Allocation Funds Fails San Diego

By Macy Meinhardt

November 9, 2023

Fighting for federal dollars is not a new dispute amongst elected officials and bureaucratic systems, especially when it comes to pressing issues like homelessness.

However, the recent argument raised by Representative Scott Peters makes a valid point, San Diego has the eighth largest homeless population in the country. Based on that, shouldn’t we receive, per say, the eighth highest level of homelessness funding?

Thanks to what Peters calls a “flawed formula” used to calculate how much money cities should receive to address homelessness, San Diego instead received the 14th highest level of funding in 2022, falling behind cities that have less than half the homeless population than we do.

San Diego has a homeless population of 10,264; to combat this we received federal funding under Housing and Urban Development (HUD) equated to $33 million. However, other cities across the nation such as Chicago for instance, has a homeless population of 3,875, but they received $86 million dollars from the same funding source.

The purpose of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is to provide housing and community development assistance and to make sure everyone has access to “fair and equal” housing, according to their website.

“This funding disparity hurts the San Diego region’s homeless assistance providers, who do an excellent job providing services to those in need of aid,” Peters’ Oct. 24th letter says. “However they are limited in what they can do with the funding allocated by the current CoC formula.”

Under HUD, the “Continuum of Care” (CoC) program is the core federal funding source used to fight against homelessness, supporting various organizations in a specified region to prevent, address, and mitigate homelessness’s impact on individuals, families, and communities.

The primary CoC formula, which has not been updated since 1977, allocates funds to communities based on weighted factors: population, poverty, and overcrowding. It also takes into account the region’s lag in population growth, and urban blight–which refers to the decay and deterioration of an urban area due to neglect or age.

This puts newer cities such as San Diego at a disadvantage, Rep. Peters claims.

While these may measure community development needs generally, they are not specifically tailored to measure homelessness, opponents say.

Councilmember Stephen Whitburn, who sits on the governance board for CoC, has also raised concerns, saying that the formula does not consider the many different factors that contribute to a person becoming homeless, such as behavioral health challenges.

In addition, “San Diego also has one of the highest rents in the country, but the formula does not take that into account either,” said Councilmember Whitburn, in a comment provided to Voice & Viewpoint.

“ It is time that the HUD formula be reevaluated and communities like San Diego get their fair share of federal dollars.”

Meanwhile, even with the $33 million dollars we received in the last fiscal year for our CoC, the number of people living in homelessness increased by 22 percent from 2022 to 2023.

Primary entities that are eligible for CoC grants include, but are not limited to, non-profits, victim service providers, faith-based organizations, governments, public housing agencies, and social service providers.

As a CoC recipient, Townspeople non-profit, among other things, utilizes the government funding to provide permanent supportive housing for medically vulnerable citizens in San Diego. In speaking with Executive Director Melissa Peterman on this issue , she believes a reassessment of the formula that aligns need with funding is “warranted,” however, that “isn’t to say an existing community should be receiving less.”

“I don’t think that there’s any way to talk about adjusting the funding formula without also talking about an increased allocation to the Continuum of Care.”

“Because if all you did was rework the formula and you didn’t add more dollars then some communities are gonna lose out on money,” Peterman said, suggesting that the funding allocation should be revisited on a broader scale.

The timeline of San Diego officials and housing advocates trying to get the formula revisited goes back to 2013. After sending numerous letters to HUD secretaries, during the years of 2015 and 2016, the matter appeared to be gaining some traction; HUD agreed to open up public comment. This allowed stakeholders around the country to provide feedback and alternatives for the funding to be distributed more equitably. However after a change in administrations between Obama and Trump, efforts to amend the formula were once again stalled.

Therefore, now in 2023, Peters office remains “hopeful that the Biden Administration will build upon the Obama Administration’s efforts and will reopen the public comment period on changes to the CoC formula.”

“We’re working overtime to overcome decades of inaction and underinvestment on homelessness in San Diego County – and that includes pushing for our fair share of funding from the Federal Government,” said District 3 Supervisor Terra Lawson-Remer, in a comment provided to Voice & Viewpoint.

“Representative Peters’s push to modernize the antiquated funding formula is a much-needed step to ensure our tax dollars are invested in our community to help get homeless San Diegans off of our streets and on their feet and improve the quality of life for all.”

A breakdown of numerous cities awarded allocation amount for homelessness next to their homeless population rank is organized in the chart below for readers review. The chart is intended to give visibility to how funding is not proportional to homeless population count.



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