In talking to San Diego County Supervisor Ron Roberts for my story this week about the (defunct?) City/County Joint Homeless Task Force, I got a chance to ask Roberts about why the Board of Supervisors hasn't endorsed the regional Plan to End Chronic Homelessness (PTECH). So far, the leadership of every city in San Diego County, except Santee and the county itself, has voted to support the PTECH. Santee's excuse is that there are no homeless people within city limits, but no one's quite sure what's up with the county.
Roberts said that the supervisors want to see something more concrete. Right now, endorsing the plan is, largely, a symbolic gesture of support ("We think putting an end to chronic homelessness is important and we think that the focus of this plan-building more permanent supportive housing-is the way to go"). In other words, it doesn't obligate any local governments to actually build supportive housing (that job's pretty much being left up to non-profits and private developers who want to tap into federal funding sources or receive tax credits).
"We try to stay out of symbolic gestures," Roberts told me. "If we're going to endorse something, we're going to do something."
Roberts' point is that if the cities get behind building these projects, the county will assist with staffing-kind of like what happens with the city of San Diego's annual winter shelter. The city finds a site and allocates federal money to the cost of operating the shelter while the county sends over health workers to assist shelter residents. Which the county, as the government agency responsible for the health and welfare of its citizens and the administrator of tens of millions of dollars in state and federal funding for social services, is legally obligated to do anyhow.