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San Diego’s Homeless Brace For Freezing Temperatures

Bob McElroy, president and CEO of the Alpha Project, and Joel Roberts, CEO of PATH Partners, talk to KPBS about winter homeless shelters in San Diego.

Bob McElroy, President and CEO, Alpha Project

Joel Roberts, CEO, PATH Partners

Ruth Bruland, Executive Director, St. Vincent de Paul Village

Beth Hallock, Project Director, Operation Hope


During the coldest weekend so far this winter, many of San Diego's homeless struggled to survive the freezing nights.

Shelters added extra beds, but most of San Diego's homeless, as usual, were left to their own devices.

Father Joe's Villages opened an emergency winter shelter over the weekend that runs through Monday night. The Housing Commission gave the organization enough funding to add 166 beds to its St. Vincent de Paul shelter in downtown San Diego.

Executive Director Ruth Bruland says turnout was lower than expected. Only 109 out of the 166 extra beds were occupied over the weekend. Bruland says that's probably because its so hard to get the word out on such short notice.

Also downtown, Alpha Project Executive Director Bob McElroy said about 50 men and women were able to sleep at the Neil Good Day Center thanks to funds from the Housing Commission.

But McElroy said there were still hundreds of people on the streets. He said volunteers handed out blankets and tarps to homeless along the San Diego Riverbed over the weekend to try to keep people warm.

"Thankfully we didn't lose anyone due to the cold temperatures downtown as far as I know," McElroy said. "Last year two people died."

That wasn't the case in Los Angeles, where a man described as a transient was found dead today on a sidewalk. Temperatures there fell to 34 degrees, a record low for a January 14.

Meanwhile, two long-awaited shelters in San Diego are sitting empty.

Both the Connections Housing Project in downtown San Diego and the Operation Hope shelter in Vista have delayed their openings.

Organizers with those projects say residents are expected to move in later this month.

There are nearly 10,000 homeless people in San Diego County. That population has increased 13 percent over the past two years, according to the most recent "point-in-time" homeless count by the Regional Taskforce on the Homeless.

This year's count is scheduled to take place January 25.

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