The Connections Housing facility for the homeless in downtown San Diego is off to a good start, but needs a more transparent budget, better meal practices and more freedom for residents, the county grand jury reported Wednesday.
In its final report of the 2013-14 session, the grand jury concluded that the facility, which opened in March of last year amid fanfare from civic leaders, has met its overall goal of reducing the downtown homelessness problem.
Connections Housing, at 1250 Sixth Ave., offers 134 beds for interim housing, 16 beds for people with special needs and 73 studio apartments for permanent residents. The facility also provides meals and has a health club and a one-stop shop called a “depot” with more than 60 social service agencies dedicated to getting the homeless off the streets.
While the grand jury report contains some praise for Connections Housing, the panel listed a handful of problems, including:
— an “extremely complicated and difficult-to-decipher” 2013-14 budget, partially the result of having so many agencies involved in operating the facility;
— a reliance on a group called the Urban Angels to provide breakfast and dinner for residents, a practice the grand jury called “unrealistic,” and overall confusion as to who is responsible for providing meals;
— a regimented procedure for serving breakfast that does not encourage residents to participate;
— a community room with a television and books that is only open on weekdays;
— numerous procedures for allowing different classes of residents into various parts of the building; and
— a closure of the social services depot last December, at a time when some people need help during the holidays.
The grand jury’s recommendations include clearly defining categories to make the budget more transparent, including food in the budget; increasing the number of workers conducting outreach on the streets; requiring a regular head count at meals; expanding breakfast hours; making sure the depot is open in December; and opening the community room on nights and weekends.
The City Council has until Aug. 27 to respond to the report.
–City News Service
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