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La Mesa Police: City is making progress in helping its homeless population


More success stories are coming out of La Mesa’s new mobile homeless engagement program.

The HOME program is an initiative of the city of La Mesa, in collaboration with the La Mesa Police Department and People Assist the Homeless. The program was launched last November by La Mesa Police Captain Matt Nicholass to help those most in need of services.

HOME offers a housing-focused, trauma-informed approach to tackling homelessness in La Mesa with the help of PATH, the group hired by the city last September to help the homeless population of La Mesa to find housing, access services and connect to resources.

In a presentation by Police Chief Ray Sweeney to City Council last week, a success story was shared. A homeless man who had been on the HOME dossier since late 2020 was struggling with a mental health diagnosis “exacerbated by (use) of illegal substances as a coping mechanism.”

“After months of exploring the possibility of connecting to mental health support, the client authorized HOME to facilitate a connection to East County Mental Health, where they were enrolled in their outpatient program which includes therapy and support. medicated, ”Sweeney’s report said.

The person was then matched with a permanent supportive housing option and recently enrolled in the McAlister Institute’s residential addiction program. The program allows people to stay for up to 90 days to help them manage their substance use problem.

HOME program staff operate from the La Mesa Police Department Headquarters in downtown La Mesa and respond to non-emergency roaming-related service calls that are generated by the Police Department’s dispatch team .

According to Sweeney’s latest report, the HOME team responded to 134 service calls from July through September of this year. The HOME team contacted 86 homeless people and enrolled 40 adults in the program. Of these, five have found temporary or permanent accommodation.

The HOME approach specialists helped prioritize “the most vulnerable people in the city of La Mesa, including those at increased risk of complications from COVID-19, households with children and those facing chronic homelessness, ”the report says.

HOME has also partnered with the nonprofit Dreams for Change to help 18 homeless people access their COVID stimulus checks and bank cards. HOME also put five people in touch with mental health services.

“For many homeless people, connecting to ongoing mental health support is an essential step towards acquiring and maintaining permanent housing,” Sweeney said in the report.

The program continues to provide food and meal support and shares updates on local public health guidelines, information on vaccines, hygiene supplies and personal protective equipment. It distributed over $ 16,000 in direct financial assistance for vehicle repairs, storage costs and rent. Seven clients were accommodated in a motel. HOME also organized 144 trips to apartment tours, shelters and program admission interviews using carpooling services.

The report says that in the previous quarter, nine people left the HOME program, most of them moving into temporary, transitional or permanent accommodation.

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