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San Diego City Council Approves Plan for New Homeless Shelter

Photo credit: Ana Tintocalis/KPBS News

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

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A plan to replace San Diego's annual winter tent shelters for the homeless in Barrio Logan and the Midway District with a permanent, year-round facility at St. Vincent de Paul in the East Village was unanimously approved Tuesday by the City Council.

The mayor and council members have been looking for several years to get away from the tent system and create a more permanent shelter that would include services to keep the homeless from returning to the streets.

The new shelter will be located in an existing building and offer 100 beds beginning April 1. An additional 250 beds will become available over the next couple of months, for a total of 350 by July 1, according to the San Diego Housing Commission.

Up to 40 percent of the beds will be reserved for veterans, according to the commission.

Residents will also have access to supportive services, meals and security. Men and women will be allowed to stay for 45 days.

"Everyone deserves a roof over their head and the opportunity for a better life, and that includes homeless individuals and veterans in need," said Mayor Kevin Faulconer following the vote. "Moving away from temporary tents to a year-round program focused on helping people get off the streets for good is a game-changer."

About half the speakers during an hour of public comment opposed the change, including veterans who said St. Vincent de Paul will not be able to address their special needs.

The Midway District tent, which is closing next week, is operated by Veterans Village of San Diego. A Housing Commission official said Veterans Village of San Diego will provide services to homeless veterans at St. Vincent de Paul.

Deacon Jim Vargas, the new president and CEO of the St. Vincent's, said the city faced an "untenable" situation with the homeless that's intolerable to downtown residents, business owners and the homeless people themselves.

"We as a community cannot continue to do the same things and expect different results," Vargas said. "That is what we're here to talk about ... to do things differently."

Eventually, the services provided by the Neil Good Day Center — like phones, showers and restrooms — will also be transferred to St. Vincent de Paul.

The City Council members who spoke applauded the change but said it's only a start to solving the problem of homelessness in San Diego. The city has funded the tents, generally from November through March, since 1986.

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