Updated at 4:40 p.m. Oct. 7, 2014
The city of San Diego’s cold-weather shelter for the homeless will be located once again in Barrio Logan, but it could be for only one more year, the City Council decided Tuesday.
The 200-bed tented shelter will open Nov. 1 at the end of a city street at 16th Street and Newton Avenue and remain in operation until the end of March. The facility has been at or near the same location for several years, drawing the ire of residents, business owners and the councilman who represents the neighborhood.
A parade of opponents contended that the homeless people attracted to the area by the shelter spread garbage around Barrio Logan and nearby Logan Heights and commit numerous thefts.
Councilman David Alvarez said the idea of erecting a temporary tent every year is “extremely flawed” and keeps the city from pursuing a more permanent homelessness solution.
“The truth is that for the four years that the city has placed the shelter in Barrio Logan, no real effort has been made to find a different site or to implement a permanent, indoor homeless shelter to replace temporary beds that are in a tent,” Alvarez said.
He said promises are made annually, with nothing to show for them.
“The continued reliance on the 16th and Newton site has become a crutch, an excuse to pretend that putting up a tent in the middle of a street for a few months is helping the homeless,” Alvarez said.
Officials with the San Diego Housing Commission, which runs homeless and affordable housing programs for the city, said the winter shelter program would be operated differently this time.
To eliminate the large number of people who line up for admission on a given night, the shelter will only accept those referred by outside social service agencies or the San Diego police Homeless Outreach Team, according to the commission. Catholic Charities will perform case management work with each shelter resident with the aim of getting them into more permanent housing.
The commission representatives also said those accepted into the shelter will only be allowed to stay for up to 45 days.
The City Council voted unanimously to support Alvarez’s motion to approve the staff recommendation of authorizing a $225,000 expenditure to get the tent running by the beginning of next month, but also to no longer consider the Barrio Logan site for next year.
Other provisions outlined by the councilman, and approved by his colleagues, were for the Housing Commission and city staff to work to find a permanent, indoor shelter; to stage three public meetings in Barrio Logan by the end of March to address community concerns; for patrols around the surrounding neighborhood to be enhanced; and for the future of the winter shelter program to be discussed at a meeting of the council’s Public Safety and Livable Neighborhoods Committee early next year.
The city already has an agreement in place for the Veterans Village of San Diego to operate a separate shelter for homeless veterans on Sports Arena Boulevard.
The action by the council also included the declaration of a “Shelter Crisis” that states there are not enough beds in local shelters to meet the need.
Among other things, such a declaration would allow certain state housing, health and safety standards to be relaxed, in the event that strict compliance would hinder or delay assistance for the homeless.
—City News Service