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City Council Passes Contingency Plan For Homeless Shelter

The City Council's Land Use and Housing Committee passed a contingency plan today in case a permanent shelter for the homeless under construction in downtown San Diego isn't ready in time for the onset of cold winter weather.

A makeshift homeless shelter in downtown San Diego.
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Above: A makeshift homeless shelter in downtown San Diego.

Renovation work began at the beginning of the year on the Connections Housing project at the 86-year-old World Trade Center building at 1250 Sixth Ave., but it is doubtful the site will be ready by Dec. 1, according to Richard Gentry, who heads the San Diego Housing Commission.

When the work started, city officials said they hoped it would be done by early November.

The City Council wants a permanent shelter to avoid the annual scramble for a temporary homeless shelter site for the winter months, which always brought heated opposition from neighbors of proposed locations.

"I'd be surprised if we didn't need a (temporary) shelter this year,'' Gentry told the committee members.

Commission staff said they've targeted Sept. 1 to make a decision on whether the renovation project at the World Trade Center site has progressed enough to guarantee a timely opening. Otherwise, they plan to erect a large tent at the same location of last winter's shelter, a city-owned lot at 16th Street and Newton Avenue in Barrio Logan.

Gentry said the winter shelter usually opens before Thanksgiving. At the request of Councilman David Alvarez, he said commission staff would look into whether a second permanent shelter was necessary and feasible.

Once Connections Housing is completed, it will have 134 beds for interim housing for the homeless, 16 beds for those with special needs and 73 units of permanent housing, as well as a health clinic and space for social service agencies that provide mental health care and substance abuse counseling.

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