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Homeless Campground Set To Open Near Downtown San Diego

October 4, 2017 1:23 p.m.

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Bob McElroy, chief executive officer, Alpha Project

Related Story: Homeless Campground Set To Open Near Downtown San Diego


This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

San Diego moves forward with plans for a temporary homeless campground. And city councilmember Chris Cate admits he's the one who leaked the memo. This is KPBS Midday Edition. I'm Maureen Cavanaugh. It's Wednesday It's Wednesday, October 4. Our top story, San Diego city and County leaders announced plan to open what they call a transitional camp area for the homeless in downtown San Diego. Here's the Mayor.

It's about giving people a place an option to go. That's why this is so important. That's why, even though you receive neighborhood opposition and political opposition, we cannot wait. It's time for action.

The space is a city-owned parking lot and when it opens next week homeless advocates and revisionists -- advocates envision safe campground for people living on the streets. It's a effort to stop the spread of the hepatitis A outbreak which is up to 400 diagnosed cases. Joining me is president of the alpha project which will oversee that can come. Welcome Bob.


Will kind of sheltered you envision this new campground providing?

We're brining four-person tense. We have new tops. Brand-new, sanitary and clean. Brand-new sleeping bags. Some questions. We will have shower facilities. We're trying to get a mobile laundry facility. We certainly have the porta polities and handwashing stations -- porta potty's and handwashing stations

How will the people get their? How are you bringing them in?

That's the key. We have a commitment to the homeless and the community. There are no lockups. We have eight transportation shuttle system. Everyone will be shuttled in and out to the facility. Initially to get everyone there. and after that people will have medical appointments, legal appointments. Some people go to the library or school. We will provide the transportation to and from the facility. No lockups or loitering or lingering. We will be virtually invisible.

In January there were 3000 people living under -- unsheltered downtown. How many people can you get in the camp and how can you make the decision about priority?

Obviously we start with the women and children and families. We have an area sanctioned off for them. And it will be disabled, men and women. Seniors. Those are the most vulnerable and they will get the first shot at the facility. We are identifying those now. We have the outreach team in the downtown partnership outreach team, and the PD team, and others that have be centers.

How many people can you provide shelter for?

About 200 the time. We will transition time people -- some people into housing soon as possible. Especially the family with children. We're only going to be there 3-90 days, around 45 days until the major sprung structures are erected and then We will transition people into larger facilities and campgrounds.

That is the industrial sized tents the Mayor has been talking about. Bob, there is reportedly a petition circulating among homeowners in the area of 20th and B to stop this camp ground. Have you heard about it?

It happens everywhere. I get it. I understand their concerns. That's why we have a transportation system, I have no queuing up, pushing shopping carts around the neighborhood. We have a Police Department sending a mobile command post on the site. It will help police the area. It's not going to be were people just walk up and hope to get in. We have pickup points downtown in front of be centers. We will be transporting people in and out.

Back to the industrial sized tents. Let me ask you, what is the overall plan for these intense opening this winter? How will they be different from the temporary winter shelter the city used to put out?

The emphasis will be on transitioning people into housing. Those who have vouchers but no place for them to go. We will be using the coordinated entry system which is a countywide system to match people with vouchers and housing. It will also be a place for people to be triaged and access medical care. And wait for the opportunity cost supportive housing and treatment programs. Some people I just want to go home. A bus ticket home. These type of things. Typically we transition, in the winter 1100 people in five months.

I know you support the concept of housing. You also said the city needs both, temporary shelter and support of permanent housing. It seems to take a disease outbreak to bring that about.

You have to have a choice of being homeless or not. Because we've not had a place for people to go, evil on the streets of not had a choice. Now they will. The have facilities and can go get help or deal with the consequence of living on the street. Now there will be enough for about 700 people have those who choose to stay on the streets can deal with the consequences.

Are you looking for volunteers? Pull until her -- volunteer helpers?

Always. We got help from a Little League team who want to come and help set up tents. We have a volunteer missionary and coming in to deal with the pets. Dogs and cats and everything else. A place for people to come and mentor folks. And some meals or hygiene packs, jackets. Come down.

I have been speaking to Bob McElroy resident and CEO of the alpha project. As always, thanks.

Thank you.