Hundreds Of Shelter Beds Coming, But Not In Time For Storms
Thursday, January 19, 2017
Photo by Susan Murphy
All eyes will be on the homeless next week during two major annual events: a resource fair and a homeless count. But in the meantime, this week, hundreds of people who live on the streets are facing five days of torrential rains with limited shelter options.
San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer announced on Wednesday the city is working to add more emergency shelter beds and that he’ll have details in the coming weeks.
“We are also working to identify a new facility and add hundreds of emergency beds to address the immediate need and shelter those that are on the streets,” Faulconer said at a news conference on Wednesday at City Hall, where he stood with other city and county leaders to urge the public to volunteer for next week’s Homeless Project Connect and We All Count homeless census.
The mayor’s announcement follows a recent KPBS report of the Alpha Project’s proposed 800-bed homeless intake center that the organization says is under consideration by city officials.
But Faulconer’s shelter plan, whatever it may be, won’t come in time for three major storms barreling into San Diego starting Thursday and continuing through Tuesday. They are expected to bring heavy downpours, gusty winds and cold temperatures. Hundreds of homeless will endure the harsh conditions in their tents, or under overpasses and bridges.
City officials said downtown emergency overnight shelters will open during the storms, providing a warm place for 280 people to sleep. PATH San Diego/Connections Housing at 1250 Sixth Ave. has room for 30 people. Guests can check in from 5 to 7 p.m. and have to be out by 7 a.m.
Father Joe's Villages, 1501 Imperial Ave., can accommodate 250 people. Check-in begins at 4 p.m., but checkout gets underway at 4:30 a.m. so that the room can be transitioned back into a dining hall in time for breakfast.
Joseph Maydwell, who sleeps at Father Joe's Villages whenever the doors open for inclement weather, said the early checkout is miserable — especially during a heavy rain storm.
“It’s hell, it’s uncomfortable and downright wretched," said Maydwell, who has been homeless in San Diego for two years. “You gotta just survive. This is the streets.”
Rick Gentry, CEO of the San Diego Housing Commission, which oversees the city’s emergency shelters, said during every weather emergency this winter, there has been sufficient space in the inclement weather shelters for those who wanted it. Some homeless prefer not to use those shelters because of the early checkout and also because they do not allow pets and limit the possessions a person can bring in.
Gentry said the growing street homeless population shows a need for more services.
“At the end of the day we need more resources to provide either more beds, or even better, more permanent units of housing for people in need,” Gentry said.
City and county leaders have vowed to join together this year to tackle the homeless crisis.
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