The city of San Diego on Monday opened a camping area for people who are homeless, with 24-hour security, bathrooms and storage.
The 136-space facility was set up in the parking lot of the city operations yard in Golden Hill, just south of the Balboa Park Golf Course.
The camping area is operated by the nonprofit Alpha Project like a typical campground, with rules and regulations and an on-site manager. Each person will register and be assigned a 13- by 13-foot campsite, but each space can accommodate one or more individuals.
The tents are providing refuge for about 200 people, including 22-year-old Latorius Carlisle.
"So it’s a blessing you know not to be on the street. You have authority protecting you. You don’t have to worry about carrying your stuff around cause that wears you out too," she said.
Some city operations and personnel have been moved to make room for the camp, which will be temporary until three larger tent shelters open in two to three months. The nonprofit Alpha Project will run the campground. Its President and CEO, Bob McElroy, says this is a starting point for people to heal while they wait to transition into more stable housing.
"Today is a tremendous blessing. ‘Cause we’re finally here, we’re actually putting nails in the ground. You’ve seen the kids, you’ve seen the families and you’ve seen our ladies young and old -- they’re going to be safe tonight, and they’re going to be healthy tonight. We’re going to start that process," McElroy said.
A lack of shelter space has been blamed in part for an outbreak of hepatitis A in San Diego that has killed 17 people. The City Council last week declared an emergency over a lack of shelter space for the homeless, whose numbers have grown dramatically over the past few years.
Nurses provided 18 hepatitis A vaccinations this morning at the camping area.