SEVI Research Reports

Preventative Measure Research

The Impact of Utility Assistance on Keeping People Housed


Authors: Mounah Abdel-Samad and Naader Ho

with assistance from Sama Aziz and Paola Diaz de Regules


Homelessness has and continues to be one of the most challenging social issues of the San Diego region (the number of homeless people was 7,658 at the point in time this report was written). To address and assist unsheltered people, a large portion of services have been directed to providing assistance and rehousing individuals. While these are noble efforts, it is essential to examine preventative measures that reduce the number of vulnerable people from falling into homelessness in the first place. According to the San Diego Union Tribune there has been a recent increase in the number of individuals that are more than 4 months delayed in paying their utility bills. This is a clear sign of the need to increase utility assistance in these times.

Zip codes map

This study examines the impact of utility assistance (electricity mainly) on keeping people housed, thus reducing their risk and ensuring they do not enter the cycle of homelessness. This study measures the perceptions of individuals living in four zip codes in the San Diego region (two in the City of San Diego and two in the City of El Cajon), as well as those of homeless individuals concerning the impact of utility assistance on housing.

  1. Utility assistance does help the people utilizing it stay housed.
  2. Utility assistance benefits individuals who are currently housed, and not single individuals who are renting a room within a residence (based on interviews). 
  3. Zip codes where the research was conducted contain large, vulnerable populations that need and could benefit from utility assistance.

Utility Assistance Percentages

Utility Assistance Bar Graph

Falling through the cracks

  • Increase accessibility of utility assistance programs. 
  • Explore ways to provide utility assistance to single room renters. 
  • Increase utility assistance for those eligible from 30% to 50%.
  • Cover 100% of utility bills for people who are extremely impoverished. 
  • Promote collaboration between utility assistance and rental assistance programs.

Interview quote


This report examines resident attitudes towards affordable housing complexes in an effort to develop a better understanding of support for and opposition to affordable housing in their communities. In popular discourse residents are often placed into two broad boxes of “NIMBY” and “YIMBY,” but the reality is that many residents have more nuanced, qualified, and complex views towards affordable housing. This report details the many different conditions and concerns that can factor into San Diegans’ attitudes toward and/or support for affordable housing.

Mounah Abdel-Samad, Ph.D., Brian E. Adams, Ph.D, Mike Williams, Ph.D., Kate DeConinck, Th.D


Research focused on clients at the Transitional Storage Center operated by Think Dignity in San Diego's East Village. Clients were asked about their perspectives on the primary obstacles to improving their quality of life and their suggested solutions. Findings centered on the role of physical and psychological transformations that occurred when clients were no longer prisoners of their possessions. 
 Dr. Peggy Peattie, PhD.