Community advocate Kristie Bruce-Lane unveils her practical approach to addressing San Diego County’s rising homelessness, emphasizing empathy, education, prevention, and integrated efforts.
In the frigid hours of a February morning in 2022, the Regional Task Force on Homelessness (RTFH) recorded that at least 8,427 individuals were experiencing homelessness across San Diego County, reflecting a 10% increase since 2020. Amidst this sobering reality, Kristie Bruce-Lane, a dedicated community advocate, has stepped forward with a comprehensive plan for her campaign for Assembly District 76.
Bruce-Lane, known for her significant contributions to serving the homeless, said she recognizes the urgent need to tackle this crisis as she seeks to represent California Assembly District 76 in Sacramento. This district encompasses a broad array of cities and unincorporated areas, painting a diverse and challenging picture of the issue at hand.
In a candid interview with KUSI, Bruce-Lane explained her holistic approach to resolving the county’s homelessness problem. She focused on the integration of enforcement, compassion, prevention, education, and practical strategy.
“It’s become a humanitarian crisis. We have about 8,400 individuals on the street, about 60% are located in City of San Diego, 20% in North County and another 20 (percent), down in East County,” Bruce-Lane emphasized. She further elaborated on the complex makeup of these individuals, encompassing mental health problems, addiction, elderly, domestic violence victims, human trafficking, foster children, and entire families.
She went on to stress that these individuals never chose to be on the street, and their personal traumas often started early. “We need compassion because these individuals, they didn’t choose to be on the street. Their goal was to never be on the street. But there’s certain things in their lives that have happened and usually that trauma started early and now we’re seeing the byproduct of that and we need treatment as well.”
Bruce-Lane’s plan places significant emphasis on treatment and prevention. “For treatment there are resources and we have to strategically wrap those around those individuals,” she stated. She also highlighted the critical role of prevention, focusing on collaboration between organizations and supporting adult financial literacy through partnerships like Cal Coast Credit Union.
Her organization, The Thumbprint Foundation, focuses on helping children at risk. She introduced programs like Healing Through Literacy to tackle the illiteracy problem, a precursor to homelessness. Bruce-Lane stated, “We know that illiteracy is a pipeline to drugs, alcohol, prison and homelessness so we brought in reading specialist that are specifically trained in phonics and we will address that and we’ll catch those kids in that net we’ll get them up to grade level, give them a chance, give them a chance to get a job, get off the street, to graduate. So we’re doing some good work along with all the other organizations in the community.”
While acknowledging the state’s investment in housing and shelters, Bruce-Lane believes these should be tools, not goals, in helping the homeless reintegrate into productivity. “Shelters are important and there’s so much focus on housing, you know, we don’t have enough housing. If we could get them in the shelters, get them off the street, really deep dive into what that trauma is, and start applying those resources, that’s the key. Every individual who comes off the street has their own case. Nobody is the same as the next. So we have to get them in the shelters. Use the shelters as a tool, apply those resources strategically, transitioning them back out into productive citizens in our community and that’s the key.”
In addition to creating the Thumbprint Foundation and serving her community through various roles, Bruce-Lane’s focus on the issue extends to her work on the Salvation Army Metropolitan Board and the Impact Committee.
“It’s going to take the community to come together, to solve this issue and it’s going to take enforcement as well. Moving individuals from one city to the next and claiming I’ve solved homelessness. That’s not true,” she concluded, setting the stage for a concerted, community-driven effort to truly make a difference in the lives of San Diego County’s homeless population.