A homeless person in Coronado
A homeless person in Coronado in May. Photo by Chris Stone

Mayor Todd Gloria announced Friday that San Diego will temporarily use a former motel on Palm Avenue as a non-congregate transitional shelter for homeless San Diegans who have access to a housing voucher or a pathway to permanent housing.

“I’ve promised San Diegans we’d leave no stone unturned as we create more opportunities for unsheltered folks to come off the streets, and the Palm Avenue interim shelter is a perfect example of that approach,” Gloria said. “We’ll continue to turn unused city assets into shelter whenever possible to give unhoused people a chance to connect with the services and resources they need to end their homelessness.”

The Palm Avenue building has 22 rooms available, with 42 total on- site, and offers a shared kitchen and communal spaces, meeting and case- management areas, outdoor areas and laundry facilities. The shelter began accepting tenants May 17 and is housing 17 seniors who have vouchers and are awaiting a match to permanent housing. One 70-year-old veteran has already exited the shelter into permanent housing.

Priority for the rooms is given to those 55 or older who have access to rapid rehousing assistance, a pathway to permanent supportive housing or a housing voucher, according to a city statement.

The building was purchased and refurbished for the San Diego Misdemeanants At-Risk Track program, a diversion program created by the City Attorney’s Office for “chronic misdemeanor offenders with acute drug addiction and complex social service needs,” according to the program.

San Diego’s purchase and transformation of the motel on Palm Avenue was approved by the City Council in 2017 and served families experiencing homelessness at the height of the pandemic. Since then, the city has opened family shelters elsewhere and has used the opportunity to use the building as a non-congregate shelter for single adults.

The facility will operate as an interim shelter until the SMART program by the City Attorney’s Office and County Behavioral Health services is ready to launch, sometime this fall.

Referrals into the shelter come from homeless service providers such as San Diego Housing Commission, PATH, Father Joe’s Villages and Alpha Project, as well as the county.

Last year, the Regional Task Force on Homelessness estimated that the number of first-time homeless people in the county grew from 2,326 in 2019 to 4,152 in 2020, a 79% increase. An annual point-in-time count found 8,427 people experiencing homelessness across San Diego County, a minimum number. Between Oct. 1, 2020, and Sept. 30, 2021, more than 36,500 San Diegans interacted with homeless services, meaning the true number of San Diegans living without permanent housing could be far higher.

— City News Service