Homeless Families Move Into Golden Hall, Next Door To San Diego's Elected Leaders
Dozens of homeless families moved into the second floor of Golden Hall in downtown San Diego on Monday as the large, gray, industrial tent they had been living in on a back lot of Father Joe’s Villages is being removed to make way for a 14-story permanent housing facility.
The new temporary shelter is located beside City Hall, where San Diego’s elected leaders are scrambling in their high rise offices and boardrooms to combat the fourth worst homeless crisis in the nation. For the next three months, many of the people they are working to help will be their neighbors.
“I applaud the city staff and the mayor in securing this site,” said Deacon Jim Vargas, CEO of Father Joe’s Villages, the region’s largest homeless services provider tasked with managing the shelter.
“The fact that city hall is right here … says a lot of positive things,” he said.
While homeless families are settled into Golden Hall, their previous tent home, called a bridge shelter, will be moved to Imperial Avenue and 17th Street, blocks away from the previous location. Shelter residents will move to the new location in July.
Vargas said, just like the tent, families will receive an array of comprehensive services at Golden Hall, including three hot meals each day, showers and laundry facilities. The men, women and children will sleep in large rooms lined with metal-framed bunk beds.
“We have our therapeutic child care center where our kids have benefitted,” he said. “And of course our employment center and our navigation center, helping them into housing because at the end of the day, it’s all about getting them into housing.”
The group of 150 people includes nearly 70 children. Vargas said there has been an average of 60-70 infants, toddlers and children up to age 18 since the tent structure opened 15 months ago.
Paul Delessio, director of coordinated services with Father Joe’s Villages oversees the care of the residents, including the children. He said the young children are excited about the move.
“Kids are really resilient,” Delessio said. “It’s tough for some of the older kids, especially the teenagers who come in. Once you get older, the ego starts to come in and you start to get embarrassed about things, but for the younger kids, they’re really great with it.”
Delessio said an average of 50 to 100 families are sleeping on San Diego County streets on any given night.
Meanwhile, the waiting list to get into Father Joe’s Villages has grown to 200, Vargas said.
“The fact that kids are on the street just breaks my heart,” Vargas said.
He said that’s why it’s essential to build more permanent housing units, like the 14-story facility breaking ground in the coming weeks at Father Joe’s Villages.
“That’s going to be 407 units and it’s going to take about 507 people off the streets,” he said. “That’s a big deal.”