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Addressing infrastructure and homelessness

Posted: August 24th, 2018 | Columns, D3 Update, Featured, Politics | No Comments

Chris Ward | D3 Update

Every day, my team and I are grateful for the opportunity to support and advocate for improving the neighborhoods of District 3. Every neighborhood is unique and has different priorities, but one thing is consistent — aged infrastructure in dire need of repair.

From street resurfacing to new facilities, my staff has advocated to move long-awaited projects forward. From Mission Hills to Downtown, District 3 now has the most infrastructure projects than it has had in years.

In June, the San Diego City Council approved the fiscal year 2019 budget. Thanks to great work by staff throughout the city, we were able to maintain neighborhood services and important priorities, which have been threatened in previous years, including support for arts and culture programming. The budget is also set to provide the largest infrastructure investment in city history.

I’m excited to see progress being made on our new Mission Hills-Hillcrest Library, with construction set to finish by early 2019. This new 15,000-square-foot facility adjacent to Florence Elementary School will serve as a hub for the diverse needs of our community. I’m also pleased to see that Fire Station No. 5 — located in Hillcrest at 3902 Ninth Ave. — officially opened on Aug. 20 and is now fully operational.

Additionally, we are finally nearing completion of the long-awaited improvements to the Georgia Street Bridge. This is a significant investment that will address safety and seismic concerns while restoring the historical integrity of a century-old landmark. While I have supported this project, the construction timeline and associated neighborhood impacts have been unacceptable.

I share residents’ frustrations that have come from these delays, and my office is working on ways to apply the lessons learned from these problems to ensure future projects are handled better. We have been told we can expect project completion in September 2018. My office will continue to closely track this with city staff and push for this project completed as quickly and efficiently as possible.

Meanwhile, the city is continuing efforts to address the health and safety concerns related to our ongoing homelessness crisis. Following critical emergency responses related to last year’s hepatitis A outbreak, I’m working with our partners throughout the region to keep us focused on Housing First principles to ensure our resources are effectively moving homeless San Diegans off the streets and into stable housing that addresses their needs.

Last month, I introduced a resolution supporting Permanent Supportive Housing to members of the Select Committee on Homelessness. Permanent Supportive Housing is a model that combines low-barrier affordable housing, health care, and supportive services to help lift families and individuals out of homelessness and into stable, permanent housing.  The resolution unanimously passed out of the committee, which speaks to the commitment of my colleagues to create the housing opportunities necessary to reduce homelessness. Increasing the number of Permanent Supportive Housing units will move more families and individuals off our streets and into a safer environment.

I have been leading in these efforts as a council member, chair of the Select Committee on Homelessness, and vice-chair on the Regional Task Force on Homelessness. I’m encouraged by the recent unanimous support from members of the Select Committee for my new proposed Rapid Re-housing (RRH) and Employment Pilot Program. This new program aims to connect families experiencing homelessness to permanent housing through financial assistance and targeted supportive services.

As we have worked to better incorporate in-depth data into our homeless responses, it’s been clear that too many people are exiting our RRH programs without stable employment income. This makes it harder for these individuals to take over the full cost of rent and increases the risk that they will fall back into homelessness. We’ve received enthusiastic support from partners in the private sector to help us connect homeless individuals in our RRH programs with stable employment that matches their skills. As the pilot program comes online, we expect it will provide employment services to at least 300 households in the city’s funded RRH programs.

Councilmember Chris Ward

As neighborhood activities pick up, I hope to see you in the community. If you need any assistance with city services or have ideas you would like to share, please contact Brittany Bailey, my community representative for Uptown. Reach her at 619-236-6633 or BNBailey@sandiego.gov.

[Editor’s note: This is a first installment of Councilmember Chris Ward’s new monthly column, “D3 Update,” focusing on news affecting the District 3 neighborhoods in Uptown.]

— Councilmember Chris Ward serves the 13 communities in District 3, which include the Uptown neighborhoods of Old Town, Mission Hills, Hillcrest, University Heights, North Park, South Park, Normal Heights, Bankers Hill and others.

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