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October 15, 2020

Groundbreaking Collaboration—New Course Trains Workforce for Positions Serving San Diegans Experiencing Homelessness

The San Diego Housing Commission and San Diego City College work together to make the course available

SAN DIEGO, CA — A first-of-its kind collaboration between the San Diego Housing Commission (SDHC) and San Diego City College will provide specialized education, training and job placement assistance to develop the workforce needed for programs and services that help San Diegans experiencing homelessness.

“Hiring and retaining individuals with the qualifications and the commitment to serve this population is essential to successfully addressing homelessness. This pilot program is an innovative step forward to help meet this need in the City of San Diego,” SDHC President & CEO Richard C. Gentry said.

The first “Homelessness Program for Engaged Educational Resources” (PEER) course started this week on October 13, 2020, through San Diego City College. Forty students enrolled in the first course, which will involve in-person learning by live video conference because of safety precautions due to COVID-19.

“The PEER program is a unique partnership between San Diego City College and the San Diego Housing Commission. The program was developed in response to two important issues identified as challenges by the Commission. The first is the desire to fill the increasing number of job openings being created by the unprecedented amount of grant funds coming into the region to serve the homeless population. Second, is to prepare workers for these jobs through educational preparation and training,” said Matilda “Tillie” Chavez, San Diego City College’s Vice President of Instruction.

As a leader in collaborative efforts to address homelessness in the City of San Diego, SDHC identified the need for additional qualified applicants for positions in the area of homelessness programs and services. The five foundational strategies in the City of San Diego Community Action Plan on Homelessness also guide this program, primarily to create a client-centered homeless assistance system; implement a systems-level approach to homelessness planning; and improve the performance of the existing system.

This new course will build upon established San Diego City College certificate programs in mental health work, alcohol and other drug studies, gerontology, and the Associate of Arts Degree in Behavioral Health: Social Work. Students in these programs are the focus of City College outreach efforts to identify students for the new course.

SDHC is funding the PEER program, with a budget of approximately $187,000, while San Diego City College is also leveraging existing San Diego Community College District resources.

The PEER program will offer help to students with enrollment and support services needed on campus; match students to appropriate internships, work experience or service learning sites with homeless service providers; and provide job placement assistance. Students will also be advised about other San Diego Community College District course offerings that could support their foundational knowledge, such as First Aid, Automated External Defibrillator (AED), CPR and the administration of NARCAN, which can help can help reverse an opioid overdose.

As a pilot program the goal of the course is to enroll at least 15 students per semester, and for 80 percent of students to secure a volunteer position, internship or job in an organization working with individuals and families experiencing homelessness.

The course will provide an introduction to the policies, governance, and operations of the homeless services sector, with a specific focus on the San Diego region. Course topics may include:

  • Introduction to the San Diego County Continuum of Care, Regional Task Force on the Homeless
  • Overview of the City of San Diego Community Action Plan on Homelessness
  • Introduction to evidence-based practices including ”Housing First,” Cultural Competency, and Crisis-Intervention, and how they are utilized to serve clients
  • Overview of housing interventions and resources
  • Career opportunities, how to stay connected to the industry, and best practices in self-care

SDHC has administered the City of San Diego’s homeless shelters and services programs since July 1, 2010.

SDHC’s homelessness action plan, HOUSING FIRST – SAN DIEGO, has created more than 9,200 housing solutions since November 12, 2014, for individuals and families experiencing homelessness in the City of San Diego.

On behalf of the City of San Diego, SDHC also contracted with the Corporation for Supportive Housing a nationally recognized consultant with broad expertise in the area of homelessness, to develop the City of San Diego’s Community Action Plan on Homelessness. A Steering Committee composed of representatives from the office of Mayor Kevin L. Faulconer, the office of San Diego City Councilmember Chris Ward; the Regional Task Force on the Homeless; and SDHC supported CSH’s work through all phases of the plan development.

In addition, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, SDHC collaborated with the City of San Diego, County of San Diego, Regional Task Force on the Homeless (RTFH), the San Diego Convention Center and service providers to launch Operation Shelter to Home on April 1, 2020. This initiative temporarily repurposed parts of the San Diego Convention Center as a shelter for single adults experiencing homelessness in the City to allow for proper physical distancing to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Additionally, 53 families, consisting of 151 individuals, moved from shelter at Golden Hall to motel rooms funded by the RTFH and County of San Diego to facilitate appropriate physical distancing. Operation Shelter to Home provided temporary shelter to approximately 1,100 people per day and helped more than 700 people secure permanent or longer-term housing.


Media Contact:

Scott Marshall

Vice President of Communications

San Diego Housing Commission


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