California News

San Diego homeless director quits job

After 20 months on the job, Hafsa Kaka is stepping down as director of the City of San Diego’s Department of Homelessness Strategies and Solutions.

Mayor Todd Gloria announced Kaka’s departure on Monday and said she would be leaving at the end of the week to take on a new role “of regional significance in homelessness.” He did not provide additional details about his new job.

“Our work and efforts on homelessness have captured the attention of government leaders across the country,” Gloria said in a press release. “As a result, Hafsa Kaka, our Director of Homelessness Strategies and Solutions, has been recruited for another position, which she will announce in the coming weeks. We thank Hafsa for her work and service to the people of San Diego and congratulate her wholeheartedly on this new position.

Kaka (pronounced KAY-Ka) was hired in August 2021 at $180,000 and came to town with 15 years of experience in the field. She had worked for the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority and as a homeless services manager for the city of Santa Ana. Prior to coming to San Diego, she worked two years as a homeless solutions manager for the city of Riverside, where she designed and implemented a program to find housing for people who lived in the most large city camp.

Gloria noted in a press release that during Kaka’s time in San Diego, the city increased the number of shelter beds by 68%, with new services including a community harm reduction shelter, a 150 shelter beds run in partnership with the county, the Rachel’s Promise women’s shelter, the Palm Avenue seniors’ shelter, a women’s shelter in the old central library, and a new family shelter that will open this summer.

The city’s safe parking program has also been expanded, with a new one set to open soon in Clairemont, and a new coordinated outreach program has been launched to help connect people on the streets to shelters.

Despite increased efforts, homelessness appears to have increased over the same period. The number of people living in encampments in downtown San Diego has hit an all-time high of nearly 2,000 in recent months, and new reports from the San Diego Regional Task Force on Homelessness continue to show that more more people fall into homelessness than they are housed each month.

Kaka’s position was sometimes referred to as the city’s homeless czar, and this title was historically briefly held in the city. Most notably, former aide to President Bill Clinton Stacie Spector held the position under former Mayor Kevin Faulconer for seven months before leaving in 2017.

Gloria announced on Monday that starting April 3, the homelessness strategies and solutions department will be headed by Sarah Jarman, who had served as senior homelessness advisor for Faulconer and worked on housing policies for former City Councilman Scott Sherman.

Jarman previously worked as the department’s deputy director, where she led the project and program development unit and was responsible for hiring and supervising staff and managing $60 million in more than a dozen of programs.

“I am honored to return to the Department of Homelessness Strategies and Solutions leading an incredibly dedicated team of city employees,” Jarman said in a press release. “I am grateful to have the opportunity to serve as a director and work together with our great partners on the most important issue facing the city.”

California Daily Newspapers

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