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Permanent Homeless Shelter Plan Moving Forward

Audio

Aired 10/8/10

The idea of building a permanent housing and service center for the homeless downtown is moving closer to reality. We discuss what issues still need to be worked out before the project is officially approved. Plus, why has it taken so long to get this long-discussed idea off the ground?

The idea of building a permanent housing and service center for the homeless downtown is moving closer to reality. We discuss what issues still need to be worked out before the project is officially approved. Plus, why has it taken so long to get this long-discussed idea off the ground?

Guests

John Warren, editor and publisher of San Diego Voice & Viewpoint.

Tony Perry, San Diego Bureau Chief for the Los Angeles Times.

Bob Kittle, Director of News Planning and Content for KUSI.

Read Transcript

This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

If you're at all familiar with San Diego's downtown, you probably be the world trade center on sixth avenue just a few blocks from symphony hall. It's a distinctive blue and white building and in the 90s it was home to a major publishing company. Now it's on the road to becoming a year round shelter for the homeless. So John Warren, locating just a winter shelter in San Diego for the homeless has been a struggle. How did a permanent shelter become just a possibility?

JOHN WARREN: Well, that's a good question. The idea of using this particular building is that, okay, downtown businesses will buy into this, if you want to make this a one stop deal. So we'll put social services and all the things that the home little need in this one building which theoretically should reduce their visibility on the streets and cut back on giving a bad image to the city. But look at this idea. 225 beds will go in this shelter, 100 for men, 50 for women, 74 condo units. But yet there are 4000 according to the 4,500 people that are homeless on the street. So this is just a start about. You nobody wants it in their neighborhood, you know, NIMBY. Not in my backyard. So I think the money that's gonna come, they haven't decided how it's gonna be paid for yet. There's a fight on where they want to put the tent. So I think it's we don't want it, but this train is leaving so we better get it. And that's what's moving the world trade building at 1256 Sixth Avenue, wherever it is.

GLORIA PENNER: Sixth avenue.

JOHN WARREN: Yeah, to be decided.

GLORIA PENNER: Okay. So we have time to put out one call to our listeners to see how they feel about a permanent homeless shelter in downtown issue it's around sixth and I would say A and B. Around there. How you feel about it. And our number is 1 888 895 5727 if you want to get in, you'll have to do it quickly. We're quickly coming to the 10:00 o'clock hour. John rather, Tony, the question is that local business leaders have been opposed because of this location. And suddenly they seem to be reconsidering. What would motivate them to turn the corner and support negotiations on this?

TONY PERRY: I haven't the foggiest idea.

GLORIA PENNER: Okay. All right. Bob? Bob Kittle, you always have a foggy idea.

BOB KITTLE: I'm not sure the business community is embracing this in any way shape or form. And it is because this is sort of in the heart of the financial district surrounded by banks and financial institutions, I think a comprehensive homeless shelter is an excellent idea when it provides services and not just a meal and releases the homeless back to the streets after a meal. However I do not think this is the right location for it. Father Joe who operates of course Father Joe's villages, I wanted to have the contract to establish this center in the part of town where most of the homeless services are now provided. Frankly, the City Council and the city in general have found Father Joe to be a difficult figure to work with. And they ran in the opposite direction and they've now they've now voted to open exclusive negotiations with what is essentially a Los Angeles social service agency.

GLORIA PENNER: All right let's hear from Daniel in Clairemont who is among the people who've called us, and he's getting in under the wire. Daniel, you're on with the editors. Can you make it brief, please?

NEW SPEAKER: I went to this up in LA, and even though I don't think I agree again with Mr. Kittle about the building, it is a first step. And until Heinz and Franz come up with this own building to give the city, that's thousands of buildings downtown in San Diego, many of them on the six stories that they could probably give out. That's what they probably need to come up with so we can help these homeless, we've been sitting on this egg for 20 years now, and it's time that the businesses come up with something real and that they help the city. That's really what needs to be done. But the city is trying very very hard. But it is gonna be through our taxpayer detriment through the beginning.

GLORIA PENNER: Thank you Daniel and I think we have time for Barbara in San Diego, again, Barbara, please make it brief.

NEW SPEAKER: Let me just tell you I was displaced by a home fire in Washington state, I'm almost homeless, got here in December, never been homeless in my life. And I was on with the homeless people, final it's a migrating crowd. Finally I had to take my savings ask stay in a hotel room. Some people like this life tile, what the man just said about the empty buildings maybe that would help, but I think if you put something permanent, more people will come. Of I was in a tent structure and it's a first come, first serve basis, you have to get there, you have to get if line, some people are just lazy unless they're in a situation, I think where they're forced to act.

GLORIA PENNER: Okay, well, thank you very much, Barbara of that's the last comment that we'll be able to take. John, you mentioned the funding. Is there the thought that this funding might come from redevelopment funds?

JOHN WARREN: At this point, I mean, there's a possibility, and I hear Bob and Tony both say we don't see any business interest. But if businessmen can be convinced that it's better to put them in one place off of the street, yes, I think they will come up with money because they're voting based on their interest and not from a humanitarian concern.

GLORIA PENNER: Final comment from you, Tony. It's been a long struggle to shape San Diego's downtown into a happening place, dining, entertainment. What danger is there that a homeless shelter could destroy that image.

TONY PERRY: None. None. San Diego will survive. Have you been to San Francisco downtown recently? Have you been to no? This is an urban problem of one thing that fascinates me about this is how the homeless have moved out of Balboa park. Now the police will tell you that they consider it too dangerous so they've moved to downtown streets and they sleep there instead. That I find more disturbing than a lot of things. If Balboa park is now too dangerous at night.

GLORIA PENNER: Okay. Well, gentlemen, I want to thank you very much for your comments I want to thank our listeners and our callers and again, I remind you KBPS.org/theEditorsRoundtable. Thank you very much Tony Perry from the LA Times, and to John Warren from San Diego voice and viewpoint and Bob Kittle from KUSI. This has been the Editors' Roundtable. I'm Gloria Penner.

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