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HUD Secretary Visits San Diego For Homeless Conference

U.S Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson tours th...

Photo by Matt Hoffman

Above: U.S Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson tours the Alpha Project's homeless shelter with the nonprofits CEO Bob McElroy, Feb. 22, 2019.

U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson visited the Alpha Project's homeless shelter on Friday to see how the city of San Diego is working to get people off the streets.

Carson said it costs more to help people on the streets compared to sheltering them.

"You leave somebody out on the street what happens to them?" Carson said. "Very frequently they have significant medical issues — they wind up in the emergency room. Quite frankly three or four days in the hospital costs way more than a year of support in there (the shelter). We have to start really thinking about these things and what really saves us money."

About 320 people stay in the downtown shelter. Alpha Project CEO Bob McElroy took Carson on a tour of the facility and described his organization's mission with the homeless.

"Get them stabilized — so that when we do get them into housing then our staff helps them manage so they’re not out on the street," McElroy said.

RELATED: Homeless Advocates Support Using Golden Hall As Temporary Shelter

Carson said the federal government is taking a data driven approach to homelessness. He said there is a lot of evidence that shows projects like temporary tent shelters can work.

"There are a lot of good programs around the country," Carson said. "We need more, and absolutely we need people to have faith in their fellow human beings who have programs like this where you can actually see the results."

McElroy said he was glad Carson came to see firsthand how temporary homeless shelters can work.

"He understands the issue," McElroy said. "He understands everything from the need for the shelters — obviously you’ve got to have a starting point. You can’t provide the services we provide to a transient population out on the sidewalks."

The Alpha Project tent shelter as well as two others in the city have funding to stay open through the end of June. The San Diego Housing Commission, which pays to keep the shelters open, said it will recommending keeping them open past that.

After visiting the shelter, Carson then spoke at the Solutions for Individual Homeless Adults conference.

U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson visited a San Diego homeless shelter before speaking at the Solutions for Individual Homeless Adults conference.

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