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Project Director Dies Days Before New Homeless Families’ Shelter Opens

The director of a new shelter for homeless women and children in North County died unexpectedly on New Year’s Day, two weeks before the project is due to open.

Photo by Nicholas McVicker

Russell Blackwood talks about plans for the new shelter for homeless families in Vista

Russell Blackwood, project director for Operation Hope, managed North County’s winter shelter for homeless families in a rented warehouse for the last eight years. This year, finally, enough money was raised to move the winter shelter into a new, more permanent location. Blackwood was working to open the facility by Jan. 15.

Beth Hallock of Operation Hope said Blackwood was admitted to Palomar Medical Center suffering from flu-like symptoms on Monday night and he died early on New Year’s Day. His energy, enthusiasm and passion for working with homeless families was evident to all who met him. Hallock said her goal is to keep his mission going.

“We’re going to miss him greatly,” she said. “We are going to carry on. He dedicated everything he had to Operation Hope, and we are going to honor that and move forward.“

The shelter will have 46 beds. Hallock said six families are ready to move in: they are currently using motel vouchers until the building is ready to occupy. Construction should be finished before Jan. 15, she said. The family shelter is a key part of North County's winter homeless shelter network.

Blackwood would have been 49 today.

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