Supervisor Terra Lawson-Remer's Policy Addresses Regionwide Challenges of Homelessness, Behavioral Health, and Affordable Housing

News Date
  • Supervisor Lawson-Remer Worked with County Staff to Advance Priority Areas for Board of Supervisors 
  • Includes More Shelter Beds for Homeless Individuals, More Trained Behavioral Health Workers, New County Workforce Housing 
  • Policy Helps Hospital Emergency Room Overcrowding Concerns Raised During December’s Conservatorship Delay Vote
  • Board of Supervisors to Vote on 5 Recommendations on Tuesday, January 9, 2024

The San Diego County Board of Supervisors can increase recuperative care homeless bed capacity and reduce overcrowding in hospital emergency rooms, create workforce housing for County employees, and address previously identified shortages in the behavioral health workforce at their next meeting on Tuesday, January 9, 2024. 

Supervisor Terra Lawson-Remer, who was appointed by her colleagues as a member of the fiscal subcommittee and has been working with county staff since August 30, 2022 on recommendations for the best ways to prioritize spending an $80.6 million Evergreen Fund, has outlined five recommendations based on region wide challenges involving behavioral health, homelessness, affordable housing, climate justice and economic prosperity, which the Board has been working to address over the last three years.

“Our priorities as a Board are clear and these recommendations follow through on our commitment to help homeless people suffering on our streets, expand the pipeline for more trained mental health and addiction treatment workers, and combat the rising cost of housing by building more affordable homes for working families,” said Supervisor Lawson-Remer, Vice Chair of the Board of Supervisors. “Mental health, addiction, homelessness and unaffordable housing are the issues residents tell each Supervisor are important to them, and we now have the opportunity to help address their concerns using our Evergreen Fund.

“We’re not using the federal  stimulus dollars to pay for regular expenditures like other jurisdictions. We’re making smart investments in our future by creating some new, self-sustaining programs that use federal stimulus money to draw down additional state and federal funds, so we can help more San Diegans, longer,” continued Supervisor Lawson-Remer. “These investments will be a gamechanger and go a long way toward us being able to address some of our region’s most pressing challenges.”  

The five new recommendations are:

Immediate Implementation: These recommendations are based on the urgency of the issues and the critical need to implement prompt solutions without delay. 

  1. Support SB 43 Implementation and Address Hospital Overcrowding with Recuperative Care Homeless Beds

    Program: Support the development of new recuperative care shelter capacity to provide critically needed step down beds to support SB-43 implementation and address hospital overcrowding for medically vulnerable homeless individuals. 

  2. Expand the County of San Diego’s Public Behavioral Health Workforce

    Program: To address the behavioral health workforce  through investments that (1) support the training, education, recruitment and retention of public behavioral health staff, including better pay, more voice in the workplace, and tuition assistance, and (2) engage and expand the pool of organizations equipped to provide behavioral health care within the public behavioral health system, including diverse community-based organizations to participate in the provision of Medi-Cal funded behavioral health services, broadening the diversity and representation of organizations offering mental health and substance use services.

    3. Support County Workforce Well-Being and Address Hiring and Retention Shortfalls in Key Positions by Investing in Wellness One-Time Payments

    Program: Provide County workforce wellness one-time payments to address the impact of projected increases in healthcare costs, to support County employee well-being and hiring and retention goals. Program design, structure, and terms will be designed in negotiation with labor organization(s) representing County workers during the meet and confer process.

Prioritized, to be Finalized in February: Options for the Board to consider in the forthcoming American Rescue Plan Act update from the Chief Administrative Officer, which is anticipated to come to Board in February 2024.

4. Create County Employee Workforce Housing

Program: This will be the first time the County of San Diego invests in affordable housing opportunities for the County workforce. As part of this effort, staff should assess a pilot project option to develop workforce housing for County employees to support County recruitment and retention goals. Funding could support predevelopment and site acquisition activities.

5. Advance Economic Prosperity, Climate Justice, and Small Businesses by Growing the Green Economy

Programs: Launch two programs to accelerate economic prosperity, support small businesses, and drive inclusive regional growth in the green economy.

- Economic Prosperity and Climate Justice Matching Flex Fund – Create a regional matching fund to provide cities, regional councils, and community partners with a source of local dollars needed to secure state and federal economic development, infrastructure, and climate justice grants.

- Green Jobs and Cleantech Small Business Fund – Collaborate with industry organizations and academic institutions to create a Green Jobs and Cleantech Small Business Fund to provide small business loans and technical assistance to support the growth of local small businesses in the green economy.

The Board of Supervisors directed in 2022 the establishment of an “Evergreen Fund”, using a total of $80.6 million in projected remaining balances and/or the use of a lost revenue strategy employed with a portion of American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding. Rather than immediately spending these one-time revenues on one-time expenses that would permanently deplete the funds, the Board created the Evergreen Fund to prioritize investments in programs with self-sustaining revenue sources, or that draw down and leverage external matching funds.

Last year, three proposals to use the available Evergreen Funds – proposed by Chairwoman Nora Vargas, Supervisor Joel Anderson and Supervisor Jim Desmond – were prioritized, approved and subtracted from the $80.6 million to deliver support services to asylum seekers ($6 million) and house homeless individuals in addiction recovery ($8 million). The five new proposals will be financially supported by the available balance.