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Data From San Diego’s Homeless ‘Bridge Shelters’ Show Bumpy Start

Bunk beds line a

Photo by Susan Murphy

Above: Bunk beds line a "Bridge Shelter" near downtown San Diego, which is providing a home for 324 people, Feb. 23, 2018.

Early data from three temporary homeless shelter tents in San Diego show a bumpy start to the program, which is one of Mayor Kevin Faulconer's chief homeless initiatives.

The report, which was included in Friday's San Diego Housing Commission board meeting agenda, covers only the month of January. Two of the tents opened in December and a third opened Jan. 3, meaning the report was the first comprehensive view of the performance of all three tents.

The "temporary bridge shelter" program is meant to prioritize people who have already been granted a housing subsidy but are waiting to be placed in a permanent home. Of the 527 homeless individuals who entered the tents in January, only 40 people fit that profile.

Lisa Jones, director of Housing First Administration for the Housing Commission, said the service providers struggled to find people already matched with housing subsidies because much of the contact information they had for those people was years old.

"A lot of the data was just not current, so we didn't see the numbers that we were hoping to see coming in that high-priority level," she said.

RELATED: Moving San Diego Homeless From Tents To Permanent Housing Slow But Steady

The report also noted that hundreds of people had exited the tents to "unknown destinations" and that a few dozen had entered and exited the tents more than once. A total of 29 individuals had exited the tents to be placed in permanent housing.

The San Diego City Council approved the bridge shelter program in November, despite some opposition because it diverted $6.5 million from the commission's Housing First program. Studies show the most effective model of ending homelessness is "housing first," which prioritizes permanent housing for the homeless without preconditions such as treatment for mental health or drug problems.

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Bridge Shelter Report

Bridge Shelter Report

The San Diego Housing Commission reports on the performance of three homeless tent shelters in January 2018.

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The nonprofits operating the tents are Alpha Project, Veteran's Village of San Diego and Father Joe's Villages. The report found the three organizations had spent about $1.1 million through Jan. 30, or about 54 percent of the budget for that time period.

Jones attributed the low spending to the slow start of getting homeless individuals into the tent beds, and to the commission's procurement team negotiating lower than expected prices for supplies.

"We're going to look at what's working as well as what's not working, and we're going to inform our policy and our decisions to refine that," Jones said.

While the report was included in Friday's Housing Commission board meeting agenda, it was not presented publicly because none of the commissioners asked to hear it. The Housing Commission board, whose members are appointed by the mayor, is meant to provide an extra level of oversight of housing and homeless programs in addition to the City Council.

Council members are scheduled to hear the report when they convene as the San Diego Housing Authority next Tuesday.

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