PATH San Diego
What makes your organization unique in its approach to addressing homelessness?
At PATH, we meet people where they are. Everyone has a unique story, with complex backgrounds that have caused their homelessness. Our approach to helping people end their homelessness is centered on each person’s needs—solutions are shaped by each client’s circumstances.
As San Diego’s homelessness has grown, PATH’s services have evolved and expanded to meet our community’s needs. Our programs now include outreach, interim housing, case management, rapid re-housing, Veterans services, Medi-Cal services, employment support, and on-site permanent supportive housing services in seven communities.
PATH also hires staff who are trained in evidence-based practices, share experiences with our clients (e.g., culture, race, language, military service, homelessness, recovery) and serve each client with dignity. Staff also advance our mission through their readiness to go into the field and non-traditional spaces like the San Diego River, where many of our most vulnerable San Diegans seek respite from the streets.
What is a misconception you think the public has about homelessness?
There are many misconceptions about homelessness, but the most common one is that people chose to be homeless. At PATH, we believe that people who experience prolonged homelessness have not received the right housing solution.
The housed community doesn’t always realize that homelessness is a traumatic experience, and a lot of trust needs to be built and rebuilt when working with service providers. Further, shelter and housing options are limited, and unsheltered individuals often lose faith in the system that is meant to support them when these options are unavailable. This can be especially true for people who migrate to areas outside of the urban core such as the San Diego River.
Traumatizing experiences—compounded with physical or mental health challenges—means we must work even harder to build a relationship with clients so we can provide them the support they need.
When was the organization founded?
PATH San Diego was founded in 2013, with its statewide roots planted in 1983.
Our founders, Claire West Orr and the late Reverend Charles Orr, called on individuals, faith groups, and businesses, on an evening in December 1983 to discuss their community’s rise in homelessness. That night, they decided to be the solution. A grassroots group of volunteers hosted bake sales and garage sales to raise money to provide our unhoused neighbors with bagged lunches and clothes.
Nearly four decades later, we continue serving the community, inspired by the incredible potential and impact of community members dedicated to creating a world where everyone has a home.
You are part of the "intervention" giv4 homelessness category. Can you explain more what work your organization does in this area?
PATH’s street outreach is a key example of our interventions. Outreach is often an entry point for our most vulnerable unhoused neighbors. One highlight is our work along the San Diego River through a unique partnership with the San Diego River Park Foundation (SDRPF).
Many people living along the riverbank are living with disabling conditions. Some are older and need additional care that is unavailable in such a remote area. All are susceptible to the impacts of living in these conditions, from disease to waste.
PATH addresses this by dedicating an outreach specialist to the riverbank who builds trusting relationships with this population. Our staff works with SDRPF to identify strategic areas to visit and maintain connections with clients as they move along the river. We offer food, water, case management, and service connections (e.g., medical and mental healthcare), and aim to help each individual move into their own home.
Is your organization looking for volunteers? Are you looking for committee/board members with particular skill sets? Do you need in-kind donations of any sort?
Yes, we can’t do this work alone and we greatly value the time and resources of our volunteers. Volunteer opportunities included preparing meals at our interim or permanent supportive housing sites, hosting programs or workshops at our permanent supportive housing sites, working in our clothing closet that supports our participants, or helping tend to our community gardens.
For donations, we are always in need of supplies for outreach kits (e.g., hand sanitizer, socks, water, masks) or making-it-home kits, which are provided when we help participants make it home (household items, cleaning supplies, bathroom and kitchen supplies). PATH is also looking for board members, with a particular focus on fundraising and supporting our events.
Are there any recent articles/publications/videos by your organization that you’d like to highlight?
Yes, PATH San Diego has been featured in the San Diego Union Tribune, NBC, ABC, KBPS, Voice of San Diego, La Jolla Light, San Diego Downtown News, and Times of San Diego.
In 2021, our outreach teams were highlighted in the San Diego Union Tribune, San Diego River Park Foundation, PATH team up for homeless encampment outreach.
In 2022, a reporter from the San Diego Union Tribune shadowed our outreach teams along the Riverbed and featured them in this story, ‘These people do heroic work.’ Outreach workers refuse to give up on the homeless.
What else would you want people to know about your organization?
PATH team members are deeply committed to ending homelessness and we dedicate a great amount of time and energy to community engagement. At PATH, we believe that everyone can be a part of the solutions to homelessness. Our communications and public policy teams work to make sure we’re addressing misconceptions and highlighting our essential work. Our public policy team advocates solutions to homelessness at the federal, state, and local level.