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San Diego City Council OKs Homeless Storage Facility

Homeless people stand among their items along 17th Street in San Diego, Sept. 19, 2017.
Associated Press
Homeless people stand among their items along 17th Street in San Diego, Sept. 19, 2017.
San Diego City Council OKs Homeless Storage Facility
San Diego City Council OKs Homeless Storage Facility GUEST:Andrew Bowen, metro reporter, KPBS News

>> I am Michael lip can in for Maureen Cavanaugh. Our top story a temporary storage facility for homeless San Diego's was approved by city Council yesterday Pickett is needed to let homeless people work without carrying around their belongings and there is more than 100 people at another storage center but the new facility will be in Logan Heights. They've been asked for years to be in available to homeless. What would homeless residents be able to do with their belongings at this center and why is this important? >> Anyone can go to this facility or ware house once it is opened and they can store personal belongings in lockable storage containers. Because of last-minute amendments there are no walk-up allowed so you cannot show up you have to either be referred by the police or another service provider and or you have to be on a wait list for a similar storage facility nearby only for the first three months. The other facility has a three month wait list so there is a high demand for this and homeless say this is one of the biggest barriers to the homeless in terms of trying to access social services find a job keep a job and think about everything that you own all of your belongings and having to carry them all in a backpack or suitcase or bags to job interviews and doctors appointments and when looking for an apartment it is difficult to carry. >> We will give them a sense of security knowing their personal belongings are in a safe place. This is a critical portion of our way to connect support and house homeless individuals >> What was the community's argument against this facility? Sherman Heights, Logan Heights and other area residents spoke against the plan saying they already bear a disproportionate burden of homelessness in San Diego and this would further concentrate a lot of homelessness there. People talk about stepping over needles on the sidewalk or on streets and walking through the stench of urine and feces and this warehouse is next to one of two Catholic schools so the children should not be forced to walk by a crowd of homeless people when they are trying to get to this forage facility as they are walking to the school and some testimony from neighbors is not necessarily grounded in fact so the mayor proposed 1000 storage containers for the facilities and people were suggesting that 1000 homeless people would show up in this neighborhood all at once and I don't believe that is the case. People would come in as they hear about this opportunity and checking in with their belongings every so often to make sure they are still there or pick them up or drop them off and people also said that people would bring in hepatitis A and the outbreak of hep A is over. Most children are already vaccinated and this is not exclusive to the homeless community although the idea is simply a new storage facility in this neighborhood was going to restart this outbreak of hepatitis A does not have much basis in fact or science and the level of opposition in this community reflects a historic mistrust of the city officials in this area. David Alvarado's was the only person to vote against the plan and he spoke about what you just mentioned. >> Guess he represents Logan Heights as he lives not too far from this location and he said the plan was rushed through with very little input from the community and he says this neighborhood has a history of being overlooked and disrespected and in the past city officials have belt freeways through this community with no regard to the impact of that infrastructure on the residents and their health and air quality and it is a heavily Latino district and some of what he had to say in the beating. >> But the worst part of those decisions was the lack of respect for the communities in a process where their voice was not heard and completely ignored. That is why this proposal today is a terrible idea. It is actually the definition of institutional racism. This is a rushed and incomplete proposal. >> You mentioned the size of the facility got cut in half. Were there any other changes the city made yesterday? >> They mentioned no walk-up in the first three month and the delay of the opening was delayed until after the end of the school year in mid June and they spoke about funding. This doesn't have any dedicated funding so they are utilizing savings from another program and he asked that any future increases in funding or the budget in the future will come back to the city Council for future approval. >> Thank you, Andrew.

After a nearly three-hour public hearing, the San Diego City Council voted 8-1 Tuesday evening to approve a facility that would allow those who are homeless to store their belongings.

San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer recently proposed the Transitional Storage Center at 116 S. 20th St. on the unofficial border of the Logan Heights and Sherman Heights communities.

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Faulconer told the council Tuesday one thing that prevents many people from getting off the street is the fear of losing their property, but a storage center will help homeless persons working or in school, "giving them a sense of security."

"We can all agree there is no ideal location for facilities like this," Faulconer said.

A panel of city officials stressed there would be considerable public outreach, facility cleanliness and zero tolerance for drug or alcohol abuse, loitering or graffiti.

Some changes were made to the original proposal, including a reduction in the number of storage containers to 500, down from 1,000, and an opening date of no earlier than June 13, which is after the school year ends.

In the first 90 days, clients will also be referred to the center by a service provider or currently be on the waiting list at the Think Dignity Center, a companion facility.

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Mental Health Systems Inc., as part of a $1,068,743 agreement, would operate the center for one year. After that period, the city Housing Authority would have the opportunity to evaluate the new center and decide whether to continue it.

According to the original agreement, Mental Health Systems would be responsible for minor maintenance and repair, 24-hour security, entering intake data into the regional Homeless Management Information Systems, coordinating with the San Diego Police Department on security issues and providing information on other services to homeless individuals.

Councilman David Alvarez, in whose district the proposed facility will go, cast the lone no vote. He asked his colleagues to reject the proposal and made a motion to deny the city staff recommendation in favor of the center.

"This proposal is a terrible idea," Alvarez said.

Alvarez added there was no community involvement and one community meeting. He said there was a better location just two blocks away.

"Our voice has been willfully ignored," he said. "You would not do this in any other community."

Other council members disagreed, including Scott Sherman.

"Homelessness is a citywide issue," Sherman said. "If your kids are walking through filth now, then I am for homeless people having a place to store stuff."

RELATED: San Diego Homeless People To Earn Minimum Wage Cleaning Trash, Graffiti

Many people — some of whom became emotional — spoke in strong opposition to a storage facility, citing safety concerns and possible negative impacts on neighborhood schools and businesses.

Others complained the city hadn't properly notified them and encouraged another spot, including representatives from nearby Our Lady's School

Principal Noel Bishop stressed that the school helps the homeless by donating clothing and staffing soup kitchens but opposed the proposed storage facility site.

"This is a good idea, but a bad location," Bishop added.

A first-grader at the school told council members that his fellow students can't use the playground because it is not safe.

"I am very sad that nobody came to my school to ask if it was OK to open a place for homeless people," the boy said. "I want to feel safe, can you please help me do that?"

Other students complained of having seen homeless persons fight or urinate in public.

Rev. John Auther of Our Lady's School told council members that if Faulconer's proposal "was so wonderful, each of you would be fighting to have this in your district, but you know this is garbage."

Others spoke in favor of Faulconer's proposal.

Kimberly Mitchell, president and CEO of Veterans Village of San Diego, said some veterans on the street resist help because they can't bring their belongings into a place.

Rev. Gerald Brown, executive director of the United African-American Ministerial Action Council, said the city needs "to give those homeless brothers and sisters a chance."

"We believe and trust that our law enforcement agencies will provide a better neighborhood," Brown said.

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