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San Diego Launches Campground For The Homeless

Tents are lined up at a homeless campground in Golden Hill, Oct. 9, 2017.
Milan Kovacevic
Tents are lined up at a homeless campground in Golden Hill, Oct. 9, 2017.
San Diego Launches Campground For The Homeless
San Diego Launches Campground For The Homeless GUEST: Jonathan Herrera, senior adviser on homeless coordination, city of San Diego

More of the homeless are expected to arrive at the first homeless encampment today. City workers began setting up tents Monday. The camp is meant to shelter a couple of hundred people until three large industrial tents go up starting late next month the camp is part of the city's effort to stem the spread of hepatitis A. As of today that is claimed 18 lives. I spoke with Jonathan Herrera with the city of San Diego.This encampment is a change in emphasis for the city, which was moving away from the idea of temporary shelters. How are you and evolved -- involved how are you involved -- how are you involved in this?This is not a shift. I think with the change in the reality of the situation on the streets, we are forced to come up with immediate actions to provide for the needs of our unsheltered population. We remain focus on housing first. That is the only way we will make a significant impact. Because of hepatitis A and the unsheltered population, we must act decisively. That is what we are doing today.It is my understanding that this camp provides shelter for about 250 homeless people. That is less than 1/10 of the number homeless. What provisions are being made for the others?I agree. This is definitely meant to serve a smaller populations. We will focus on the most vulnerable. Single women, women with children, seniors. This is not meant to be a cure for homeless was --. We have several initiatives coming online. This year alone we have invested 80 million dollars. It will take 3 to 5 years before the homes come online. In the interim we have invested in three temporary shelters which will have the capacity to shelter 750 individuals at one time. The intent is to transition these individuals to permanent housing within 4 to 5 months. It is a rotating the inventory of beds and helping individuals getting -- get into permanent housing.What type of security and services are available here.It will have 24, seven security there will be service providers for employment services, benefits, mental and health services and are partnership with the county to get vaccinations.How come people can only get settled in, as opposed to walk up.That came down because of the desire to have as little impact on the community as possible. If there were -- if that were allowed, there would be a lot of foot traffic. They are stepping up in a big way to take this responsibility. We also want to be respectful of their issues and concerns and ensure that this is a best of class facility and does not impact the community adversely.If someone wants to leave, are they allowed to leave?Yes. We asked that they notice -- give notice so that we can make that unit available for someone else. Yes, there is no minimum or maximum requirement in terms of state.We have heard from homeless people who don't want shelters because of rules and shelter issues. How confident are you that homeless individuals will be comfortable sleeping and being at this camp as opposed to the places that they really did not feel comfortable in?That is a good point. Conversations with homeless individuals are critical. I have heard that feedback as well. There are often self imposed barriers that prevent individuals from accessing services. Not being able to come in with their pets or partners or store their property. The rules associated with these programs. We have insured that these are low barrier and you do have the opportunity to come in with your partner and there are provisions for your pet. There is adequate storage space. You don't have to get rid of that before you come in. We have heard the concerns of the homeless and developed a program to meet their meats.This is a response that is part of a larger idea of how the city's homeless services are going to be evolving. We have the three large industrial tents that the city wants to bring online in the next couple of months. At the same time, the city has put out an RF the two providers to submit proposals for central homeless intake facilities. What is the vision for the center?Thank you for bringing that up. That is another indication to our commitment for long-term strategy. This is intended to serve as a centralized facility for individuals to access and navigate the home network. Advocates and community members don't know where to send a homeless individual. They don't know how to start to transition off the street. That facility will provide that. We laid out the tenet that we want a site to be able to serve an array of services and be able to integrate our homeless services in one location.I was reading that other cities in California are opening city sponsored homeless encampments. What part does the encampment play in what you see as the evolving way that the city outreaches toward the homeless to get them off the streets and into permanent housing?I believe it is twofold. They can continue significant investments and then being able to ensure that we are connecting those individuals to the resources that they need so that when the housing units are available, they are ready to go. They have been stabilized and have the wraparound services and are able to quickly transition into permanent housing once it becomes available.I have been speaking with Jonathan Herrera. Jonathan, thank you so much.

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.

Special Coverage: San Diego's Hepatitis A Outbreak

The tents are providing refuge for about 200 people, including 22-year-old Latorius Carlisle.

San Diego Launches Campground For The Homeless

"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.

RELATED: Golden Hill Homeless Campground Expected To Open Monday

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.

San Diego Launches Campground For The Homeless
The city of San Diego Monday opened a camping area for the homeless, with 24-hour security, bathrooms and storage.