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City to open transitional camp for homeless

SAN DIEGO -- The city of San Diego will provide a camping area for the homeless, with 24-hour security, bathrooms and storage, beginning Monday, the mayor's office announced Wednesday.

The 136-space facility will be set up in the parking lot of the city operations yard in Golden Hill, just south of the Balboa Park Golf Course.

"While we work to open more shelters, this transitional camp area will provide hundreds of homeless men and women a safe and clean space as an alternative to living on the sidewalk," Mayor Kevin Faulconer said. "No one should be sleeping in a public place in unsanitary conditions."

The camping area will be operated by the nonprofit Alpha Project like a typical campground with rules and regulations, and an on-site manager. Each person will register and be assigned a 13x13-foot campsite, but each space can accommodate one or more individuals.

“I want to stress to the neighborhood that we hope to have zero-impact on this neighborhood and we’ll have no walkups to this facility. Everybody that comes to and from the facility will be transported on a shuttle system," said Bob McElroy of Alpha Project.

Some city operations and personnel have been moved to make room for the camp, which will be temporary until three larger tent shelters open.

A lack of shelter space is being blamed in part for an outbreak of hepatitis A in San Diego that has killed 17 people. The City Council on Monday declared an emergency over a lack of shelter space for the homeless, whose numbers have grown dramatically over the past few years.

"We've been pushing for safe camping because homeless on streets and in canyons is not a solution in any neighborhood, and the communities I represent have felt that acutely," said Councilman Chris Ward, chairman of the City Council's Select Committee on Homelessness.

"This Transitional Camp Area -- especially as our sanitation efforts continue to address public health concerns -- provides people a place to go rather than just moving them from place to place," Ward said.

The councilman -- whose district of downtown, Hillcrest and North Park is heavily impacted by homelessness -- said he hopes to find more areas to shelter the homeless throughout the city and in neighboring cities.