San Diego winter shelter is now open

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SAN DIEGO – More than 200 of San Diego’s homeless population will have a shelter from the cold.  The day after Thanksgiving marks the official opening of the winter shelter.

“I’ve been waiting so long for this tent to open,” said Debby Brown.

With blankets, backpacks and their belongings, a line stretched around the block at 16th and Newton Avenue Friday.

“This day means a roof over my head you know,” said Thom O’Neil.

O’Neil was one of many veterans checking in at the Alpha Project Shelter.

“101st airborne division, I was an airborne ranger,” said O’Neil.  “As veteran, a lot of places won’t take me, but here they do.”

“Today is our Thanksgiving.  We’re the happiest place on earth today,” said Bob McElroy, President and CEO of Alpha Project. “They’re going to sleep inside in peace and harmony, have a nice dinner and start the process of recovery tomorrow.”

Working together with the city, Alpha Project will provide a roof for some 220 heads this winter.   For the next 120 days, that in need will have a warm bed to sleep in, home cooked meals, but most of all much needed medical attention.

“I have COPD and the night air is really hurting my lungs,” said Brown.

“This is actually saving people’s lives you know we have the statistics show the homeless mortality goes down when the winter shelter is open,” said McElroy.

The shelter also serves as a safe haven.

“It’s getting really bad on the streets,” said Brown.

“It’s a very safe place and they have security.  They have 24 hour security,” said O’Neil.

From that security, hopefully O’Neil and others will be able to get the help and encouragement needed to leave the street life behind.

“It can only get better,” said O’Neil.

“Hopefully I can find a home when I’m here,” said Brown.

“We’ll transition 800 people to support housing programs treatment programs,” said McElroy.  “Our goal is to make sure these people aren’t here next year.”

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