This week, the San Diego City Council approved funding for three structures that will provide temporary shelter for hundreds of local homeless individuals.
The approved $6.5 million will be used to operate three large tented structures, which are to be located in Barrio Logan, East Village, and on Sports Arena Boulevard, and will accommodate 700 homeless individuals and their families.
The first shelter will open its doors the first week of December, with the other two following soon after.
In addition to shelter, the units will provide food, medical services, security, showers and bathrooms, as well as job counseling and a path to permanent housing, Mayor Kevin Faulconer shared.
“These shelters will serve as a starting point, not the end of the road, towards a better life,” he said. “The reality is that, while we work on providing the homeless permanent housing, they still need a safe place to live.”
The mayor acknowledged that San Diego is going through a housing crisis, and that for the time being, these structures are an alternative to provide immediate shelter to those in need.
The tents being constructed will be operated by Alpha Project (Barrio Logan), Veterans Village of San Diego (Sports Arena Boulevard), and Father Joe´s Village (East Village).
The urgency for setting up these tents stems from the Hepatitis A outbreak, which has taken the lives of 20 people over this past year. According to reports, 546 people have been infected from November 2016 to date, most of them from vulnerable populations such as the homeless, who are exposed to unhealthy environments.
The Mayor’s proposal to allocate funding from the Housing Commission’s permanent housing fund for these tents was approved 8-1, with Councilmember David Alvarez casting the only opposing vote.
“We are taking millions of dollars in funds from permanent housing to temporarily house people in costly tents which average $1,700 monthly per person,” read a statement from Councilmember Alvarez. “I cannot in good conscience approve this program since less expensive options and real solutions exist that are being ignored.”
A few days earlier, Alvarez had proposed using vacant structures such as the former Chargers training facility or the old downtown library as a better option for providing housing to the homeless.
While both the Mayor and City Council agree that they need to look for alternatives to provide permanent housing for the nearly 10,000 San Diego homeless, the urgency of the situation led to their vote in favor of the measure.
“There is no other action we could take today, right here, that will provide a roof for 700 people in two-and-a-half weeks,” Councilmember Mark Kersey stated. “We are not saying that this is the end goal, but in terms of removing people from sidewalks and placing them in a better environment, particularly the most vulnerable such as children and their mothers, this is the best action we can take right now.”