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Fourth Homeless Shelter To Open In San Diego

Inside the new Alpha Project homeless shelter, Oct. 5, 2019.

Photo by Matt Hoffman

Above: Inside the new Alpha Project homeless shelter, Oct. 5, 2019.

A new homeless shelter is opening in San Diego's East Village, the city neighborhood with the largest homeless population.

The shelter, which should be open within a week, is run by the nonprofit Alpha Project. It has a capacity for 128 beds and is available for single people and families. Alpha Project CEO Bob McElroy said it is needed while more permanent supportive housing is being built.

Listen to this story by Matt Hoffman.

"So what do we do in the interim?" McElroy said. "We do these. Now people have a place to be safe, out of the streets, part of the solution, get healthy, get on the road to recovery and then we’ll go from there."

A new city plan to address homelessness calls for up to 500 additional shelter beds. San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer says the shelter is a good first step.

"We need to keep it up — keep offering these services and really give people a place to go," Faulconer said.

This homeless shelter is the fourth of its kind in San Diego. Altogether they are costing an estimated $18 million per year to operate.

RELATED: San Diego’s Fourth ‘Bridge’ Shelter Set To Open In November

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"Yes it costs dollars, but the cost for doing nothing is more," Faulconer said. "The human cost and lives on the streets and we need to continue them — we need to grow them."

Three of the shelters have been open for two years and all are being paid for with grants and other one-time funding sources.

"We need to find the money going forward to continue expanding what we’re doing," said San Diego Housing Commission CEO Rick Gentry. The housing commission is overseeing the operation of the shelters which it says is key to tackling homelessness.

"We are dealing with the issue but we’re not solving it yet because we don’t have the resources yet to hit this and the numbers we need to solve the problem," Gentry said.

In the two years since the shelters began opening, 999 people have gotten into some type of housing. McElroy said people stay for as long as it takes. "If we’re lucky enough to find a place they’re here two weeks — some people are here eight months," he said.

Not everyone living on the streets thinks the shelters are a good idea.

"It’s been tried before — nothings working — it’s just a temporary bandage," said Steven Roberts who said he and his wife have been homeless for the past three years. "It’s not ending homelessness."

McElroy and other homeless providers argue that you cannot place someone into a home until they are ready and that is where the shelters come into play.

"Now people have a place to be safe, out of the streets, part of the solution, get healthy, get on the road to recovery and then we’ll go from there," McElroy said.

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Aired: November 6, 2019 | Transcript

Photo of Matt Hoffman

Matt Hoffman
General Assignment Reporter

opening quote marksclosing quote marksI am a general assignment reporter for KPBS. In addition to covering the latest news and issues that are relevant to the San Diego community, I like to dig deeper to find the voices and perspectives that other media often miss.

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