How can we prevent homelessness?

There are many methods in which together, as a society, we can prevent people from ever having to experience homelessness.

First, we can work to create a more equitable society where some groups of people do not experience extreme levels of poverty and all people have access to housing they can afford and job opportunities with adequate pay. 

This enables families and individuals to be able to fund the housing, food, and other basic necessities they need to survive, as well as additional room in the budget to save for emergencies.

Secondly, we can create a safety net for individuals and families who do find themselves at risk of homelessness by providing temporary support through diversion, financial assistance, counseling or other services that prevent individuals and families from entering into homelessness

Preventing Homelessness Once Individual/Family Falls into Risk of Homelessness

Homeless Prevention

As evident in the name, homeless prevention works with people before they lose housing.

It is an approach to solving possible homelessness by empowering a person to identify safe, immediate, and appropriate alternatives to entering the homeless services system, such as shelters. 

An organization helping with diversion will work alongside a person or to family brainstorm possible solutions to the issue(s) threatening their housing stability, with an emphasis on trusting the person to be an expert in their own solution as they regain control over their housing crisis.

Homeless Prevention strategies range from connecting a neighbor to rental support available in the community, helping a neighbor apply for social support like disability, medicare, or food stamps to help them meet their budgetary needs, or helping them connect with family or friends who can provide them a place to stay while they back on their feet.

Sometimes an organization works with a landlord to ensure that a neighbor can stay where they are currently residing, to work through any issues that could result in eviction, or organize a payment plan for repayment of missed rent. 

The organization can then act as a mediator to develop a resolution that will allow the household to stay in their current housing. The goal of diversion is the lightest touch possible so community resources are available to those who need them most.

Homeless prevention is often a preferable approach to immediately placing someone in a shelter because it can be more cost-effective, it can ensure necessary shelter beds are available for those who need them most, but most of all, it prevents an individual or family from experiencing the trauma of homelessness.

Employment & Education Services

Job readiness training and job-seeking support offered to people at risk of homelessness can help neighbors achieve higher wages and higher quality jobs.

When a person is working one or two minimum wage jobs, they often have little leftover in the monthly budget (after rent, food, utilities) for emergencies or rental increases. 

That’s why employment services can be a critical tool for helping people compete in the modern job market and obtain jobs that pay above minimum wage.

People experiencing poverty and homelessness can encounter a number of factors that can prevent them from gaining quality employment including ​​limited education and skills, varied job histories, misplaced legal documents, limited access to transportation, cosmetic difficulties, such as missing teeth, and physical and behavioral health conditions.

According to San Diego’s Point-in-Time count report (2018), 30% of individuals polled reported a loss of job as the primary cause of homelessness.  

Through hands-on training, education, and job development, employment programs, such as Father Joe’s Villages Employment & Education Center, foster empowerment and provide tools for facing the complicated, competitive world of employment.

Preventing Homelessness by Creating Housing

There are thousands of organizations across the world implementing solutions to alleviate poverty and inequality.

At Father Joe’s Villages, we help to reduce and prevent extreme poverty by working to expand affordable and supportive housing opportunities in our community.

Affordable Housing

Housing becomes less affordable when the housing supply cannot keep up with the demand for housing in a region.

When housing becomes less affordable, the budgets of low-income families and individuals are squeezed, leaving little room for anything but survival. In fact, half of all San Diego homeowners don’t make enough money to meet the region’s cost of living, with 60% of local renters falling short by thousands of dollars per year.  

By building more affordable housing in the community, organizations help to reduce the pressure on low-income neighbors and provide more affordable options for those that need it most.

Affordable housing enables folks to maintain housing long-term because the housing stays within a price range that is proportional to their income bracket.

Through the Turning the Key initiative, Father Joe’s Villages committed to adding 2,000 units of affordable housing dedicated to neighbors overcoming homelessness, on top of the over 400 affordable units already offered by the organization. Learn more here.

Supportive Housing

Supportive Housing, sometimes referred to as Permanent Supportive Housing, is housing that is reserved for people with a physical disability, mental illness or long-term substance use disorder who need regular support to maintain housing stability. 

While Supportive Housing is provided to people who have been homeless, this type of program prevents ongoing and future homelessness for at-risk individuals with a history of chronic homelessness.

Residents of supportive housing communities receive a long-term rental subsidy that is sensitive to their income and ongoing support services to help them maintain their housing. 

At Father Joe’s Villages, for example, Case Managers help clients set and achieve goals and get connected to resources, while Tenant Services Coordinators teach life skills and host social activities that build community.

A Registered Nurse provides wound care, patient education, and medication management. 

Supportive housing is a compassionate and dignified solution to homelessness for people who would otherwise struggle to maintain housing on their own. Often, supportive housing is the best solution for addressing or preventing chronic homelessness amongst people with severe mental illness and debilitating disabilities.

However, communities often don’t have the resources to provide supportive housing to all the individuals who may benefit from it.

For that reason, building and raising funding for new supportive housing communities can be critical for preventing homelessness for people most in need.

In Conclusion

Homelessness prevention programs and associated initiatives are often a cost-effective and compassionate approach to preventing individuals and families from living without shelter on the streets and entering into the cycle of homelessness.

On any given night, Father Joe’s Villages provides shelter for more than 2,000 people, while thousands more sleep in doorways, under bridges and in the canyons and riverbeds throughout San Diego.

The Regional Task Force on the Homeless estimates the number of people experiencing homelessness in San Diego for the first time last year nearly doubled — from 2,300 in 2019 to 4,100 in 2020.

Unfortunately, the number of individuals and families falling into homelessness could grow again this year due to the devasting economic impacts of COVID-19 on employment and housing insecurity.

With a potential increase in homelessness this year, it’s important to remember that people living on the streets are not strangers. They are mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, sons, daughters, friends— they are our neighbors.

It takes the support of every San Diegan to contribute to helping our neighbors off the street. You can make a difference in the lives of people who need it most by becoming educated on the resources available for neighbors in need in the community. Knowing how to ACT when you see a person who is struggling on the streets can result in positive outcomes for someone in need, and can even save lives.

How do I interact with a person experiencing homelessness on the street?

Act with Compassion

Humanizing our homeless neighbors experiencing homelessness who are often ignored and stigmatized by society is always the first step toward helping them. People experiencing homelessness on the streets of our city need understanding, not contempt and ostracization. Many people living on the streets talk about feeling invisible and therefore worthless.

Treating struggling neighbors with compassion means looking them in the eyes, smiling, and offering kindness at a time when they may need it most.

When you see a person who is trying to survive on the streets, remember to not define them solely by their homelessness. By recognizing the humanity of people who are homeless, we can begin to address the underlying forces that contribute to and exacerbate homelessness such as:

  • Insufficient income and a lack of affordable housing in San Diego
  • Disability and/or chronic illness
  • Domestic violence
  • Systemic discrimination based on race, ethnicity, and gender, and sexual orientation
  • Mental illness
  • Substance Use Disorder

No matter what circumstances may have caused their homelessness, our neighbors living on the streets are deserving of dignity and respect.

How can I help people experiencing homelessness on the streets?

1. Refer them to Father Joe’s Villages

Father Joe’s Villages provides many compassionate services that help people in need overcome any obstacle on their journey to housing. In just the last 10 years, Father Joe’s Villages has served more than 60,000 people struggling with homelessness through our tailored programs. These programs work to restore dignity and help people in need off the streets for good.

● Franklin Antonio Public Lunch Program

At Father Joe’s Villages, a meal is not only a means of survival. It is a door to hope and overcoming homelessness. On average each year, Father Joe’s Villages serves 1 million hot, nutritious meals to our neighbors in need. The Franklin Antonio Public Lunch program is open to the public and is directed towards our neighbors experiencing homelessness.


1501 Imperial Avenue
San Diego, CA 92101

Monday — Saturday
11:00 am – 12:30 pm
9:30 am – 11:30 am

(619) 233-8500

● San Diego Day Center (Single adults)

The San Diego Day Center serves as a safe space where people living on the streets can go during the day. The San Diego Day Center provides hygiene services and basic needs such as restrooms, showers, laundry, storage, a mailing address and also serves as an intake center where people in need can be connected to services.


299 17th St.
San Diego, CA 92101

Monday – Friday
6:00 am – 4:00 pm
Saturday – Sunday
6:00 am – 2:00 pm

(619) 230-7390

● Village Health Center

People who are homeless suffer from disproportionately high rates of chronic illness, poor health status and premature mortality rates. Our Village Health Center is a Federally Qualified Health Center which combines medical, dental, psychiatric, substance-use disorder treatment and behavioral health care to address a wide range of health concerns—all in one location.


1501 Imperial Avenue
San Diego, CA 92101

Monday-Wednesday, Friday
8:30am – 11:45 am
12:30pm – 4:45 pm
8:30 am – 11:45 am
1:00 pm – 4:45 pm
5:30 pm – 8:45 pm

(619) 645-6405

● Joan Kroc Center (Families or Single Adults)

The Joan Kroc Center shelter at Father Joe’s Villages grants people a reprieve from the streets, a safe place to sleep, and immediate access to services that can help them end their homelessness for good. In total, on any given night, the Joan Kroc Center houses approximately 52 families (246 adults and children) and up to 54 single individuals. In addition to the San Diego Day Center, the Joan Kroc Center serves as an intake center where homeless neighbors can be connected to essential services.


1501 Imperial Avenue
San Diego, CA 92101

Monday – Friday
8:00 am – 4:30 pm

(619) 233-8500

2. Call 2-1-1

If you are in need of services in San Diego, 2‑1‑1 is a free telephone number providing access to local health, human, and social service organizations. By calling 2‑1‑1, those in need of assistance can be referred and connected to physical and mental health resources, housing and employment assistance, and crisis interventions.

How should I respond when a person experiencing homelessness on the streets asks me for money?

Giving money to someone living on the streets is a personal choice. If you decide that you don’t feel comfortable giving money to a neighbor who is homeless, it’s important to still acknowledge them and treat them respectfully. A good response can be, “I’m sorry, I don’t have any money to give.”

If you’d like to support critical services for people experiencing homelessness, you can instead donate to a homeless services organization in your community.

What should I do if a homeless person is experiencing a psychiatric emergency or acting violently in my business or neighborhood?

Avoid criminalization, if possible, as it can lead to further complications.

According to the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness, 70% of individuals experiencing chronic homelessness also suffer from disabling mental illness. With limited access to healthcare and mental health services, many people living on the streets suffering from mental illness don’t receive the level of support they need.

Our first instinct when experiencing someone with visible mental health issues may be to call law enforcement. However, in these situations, calling the police could do more harm than good. Mental health professionals trained in de-escalation are often better suited to handle situations in which a homeless individual may be experiencing a mental health crisis.

Sadly, criminalization could lead to ticket or jail fines that can make it more difficult for a neighbor to overcome homelessness in the future.

In this scenario, please call 2-1-1 so they can connect you to resources. Alternatively, you can Contact Us [link] at Father Joe’s Villages and we can connect you to our Outreach team.

On the other hand, if you witness a person living on the streets having a psychiatric emergency, please contact these resources

  • Psychiatric emergency response team (PERT)
  • City of San Diego Homeless Outreach Team (HOT)
  • Neighborhood Policing Division (NPD)

I don’t live in San Diego. How do I help a person experiencing homelessness in my neighborhood?

If you do not live in the San Diego area, please check online in your local area to see if you have a resource hotline, local homeless services agency, or psychiatric emergency response team.