City to open 3 temporary tent shelters for homeless

SAN DIEGO – Three temporary shelters that would accommodate hundreds of homeless people could open by the end of December, Mayor Kevin Faulconer said in a press conference Wednesday.

The announcement came as the city tries to combat a hepatitis A outbreak that has left 16 dead and 421 others sick.

“Offering more clean and safe spaces that transition the homeless from living on the streets to living in a permanent home is exactly what San Diego needs right now,” Mayor Faulconer said.

Each shelter would consist of a large, industrial tent with more than 100 beds with restrooms, showers, meals and 24-hour security.

Supportive services would also provide the homeless with connections to health care, alcohol and substance abuse counseling and job search training.

“[The new shelters] serve as a crucial transition point where housing navigators will work with men and women without shelter to find them a permanent housing placement,” according to a statement from the mayor’s office.

The total operating costs will be finalized in the coming weeks, according to the mayor. Businessmen Peter Seidler and Dan Shea have already offered to donate $1.5 million to help buy the large tents to help expedite the opening of the shelters.

The shelters would be located at the following locations:

• The parking lot on Father Joe’s Villages campus at 14th and Commercial Streets in the East Village.

• A vacant lot in the 2700 block of Sports Arena Boulevard (behind the Goodwill store) in the Midway District to be run by the Veterans Village of San Diego.

• A vacated street at 16th Street and Newton Avenue with a shelter operated by Alpha Project.

The 16th Street location was used for several years for a tented shelter during the cold weather months.

The new shelters would operate alongside the city’s current interim housing program at Father Joe’s Villages – an indoor facility with 350 beds and supportive services for homeless individuals and veterans.

“San Diegans are compassionate people who want to help solve this crisis. Their government must channel that compassion into action,” Mayor Faulconer said.

Not all city officials are satisfied with the timeline, though. Council member David Alvarez believes three months is too long to wait for the shelter tents.

“San Diego is facing the deadliest outbreak of Hepatitis A in the country. The City must act now to stop it. We must end street camping by bringing the homeless indoors to public buildings such as the old downtown library, Golden Hall and the old County Courthouse,” Alvarez said in a statement.

On Tuesday, the city began a pilot program to keep 14 public restrooms in Balboa Park open 24 hours a day. Under direction from county health, the city on Monday began washing down streets and sidewalks in the East Village with a bleach formula.

Around 40 hand-washing stations have been set up around the city -- concentrated in areas where the homeless congregate.

In January's annual tally of the area's transient population, 5,619 homeless individuals were counted in the city of San Diego, a 10.3 percent increase from last year. Of those, 3,231 were living on the streets.