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Winter Homeless Shelter Gets $250,000 Donation

United Healthcare donated $250,000 to the San Diego Housing Commission today to help fund the winter homeless shelter in Barrio Logan.

Ana Tintocalis/KPBS News

People lay on beds in the winter shelter in downtown San Diego.

"Winter is coming,'' said Tony Lonigro, regional CEO for United Healthcare Military and Veterans. "It is getting colder, and spending nights on the streets is getting more difficult.''

The commission is preparing to open the city's annual cold weather shelter inside a tent erected at 16th Street and Newton Avenue this week. The grand opening of a permanent downtown homeless facility that city officials had hoped would render temporary shelters obsolete has been delayed until March, according to its developer.

United Healthcare is also underwriting the permanent shelter, which is to be called "Connections Housing.''

Mayor-elect Bob Filner said the donation will cover half the operating costs of the Barrio Logan temporary shelter, which offers 220 beds for single adults and generally stays open until March.

"We're going to look this homeless problem -- literally -- in the face,'' Filner said. He said he wants to eliminate the problem, not just apply "Band-Aids.''

The commission's Matt Packard said the latest counts show about 6,300 homeless people in the city of San Diego, with a large percentage of them downtown. Many of them are veterans.

Commission officials say the delay in opening Connections Housing is due to issues with the $34.5 million renovation of the 86-year-old World Trade Center Building, at 1250 Sixth Ave. City officials have been aware since late spring that it might not open on time and that another cold weather shelter might be necessary this winter.

When the permanent facility does open, it will offer 223 beds and a variety of support programs designed to help the homeless get their lives back on track.

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