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San Diego’s Winter Homeless Shelter Opens

Above: Dozens of homeless people lay on beds at the San Diego winter homeless shelter in East Village on November 24, 2009.

Audio

Aired 11/25/09

San Diego's winter homeless shelter opened today in the same downtown location as last year. That came despite objections from residents and business leaders. A giant reinforced tent now sits on an empty lot on the corner of 16th Street and Island in downtown San Diego's East Village.

— San Diego's winter homeless shelter opened today in the same downtown location as last year. That came despite objections from residents and business leaders.

A giant reinforced tent now sits on an empty lot on the corner of 16th Street and Island in downtown San Diego's East Village.

Inside, 230 beds with fresh blankets have been assigned to 230 homeless individuals. They also get pillows, hygiene kits and food.

The shelter's Bob McElroy says this downtown site works because it's near existing non-profits groups. He says they've already turned away a

couple hundred people.

“People have been pushed all the way here because of redevelopment,” McElroy said. “They're all stuck out here in the margins of East Village. The highest concentrations (of homeless) are right here. Now, instead of having 300 people outside the gate, we have 230 people inside.”

The Regional Taskforce on the Homeless states roughly 4,300 people are living on the streets of San Diego. McElroy says they're seeing more elderly and sickly individuals compared to last year.

They’re also seeing more homeless woman here than ever before. Jenny Zanatella is one of the new faces of homelessness. She comes from Chicago where she lost her home and all her belongings in a house fire. She came to San Diego because she had nowhere else to turn.

“I knew I was going to be homeless,” Zanatella said. “I knew it wasn't going to be easy at all, not even in a stretch, but its been a lot tougher than I ever could imagine. But I'm still hanging in, still hanging in.”

Zanatella and the others here get connected with social agencies to get them back on their feet. They also get mental health and medical services - including H1N1 vaccinations.

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