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Public Safety

Push To Get Homeless Residents Shelter Focuses On Downtown This Month

Two outreach workers speak with unsheltered residents in downtown San Diego, July 6, 2021.
Roland Lizarondo
Two outreach workers speak with unsheltered residents in downtown San Diego, July 6, 2021.

Housing officials are just over a week into their big downtown push to connect homeless residents to shelters and housing. The operation involving a number of nonprofit partners, the city and county is being coordinated by the San Diego Housing Commission.

"Basically get anybody off the street into housing: whichever way makes the most sense to do that," said Brian Gruters, associate director for outreach at PATH San Diego. "I’m really happy to say that a lot of these resources are getting utilized everyday."

Push To Get Homeless Residents Shelter Focuses On Downtown This Month
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Efforts are being focused on three areas, the city center, East Village and the Gaslamp District. A mobile command center has staff connecting people to resources like Medicaid or food stamps — and with shelters expanding bed space now that coronavirus restrictions are being relaxed — those who want shelter can get it right away.

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"If it’s a quick fix — like someone wants to go to shelter — they can do that today," Gruters said. "It’s pretty simple but a lot of people don't want that for a lot of different reasons and we want to follow up with them."

Despite the big push, encampment cleanups are still happening. Tuesday morning along National Avenue police and crews were clearing sidewalks.

"They give us three hours to pull all our stuff and move it somewhere else," said Freddie Dangerfield, who says he has been homeless for the last few years in San Diego. He said days like this are especially tough on the unsheltered community.

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"I had a tent setup here pretty much everything you have that’s not in storage you have to move it all by yourself," he said. "We lose stuff all the time but after a while we just chalk it up to the game — like this is part of being homeless out here."

He thinks that shelters are too restrictive.

Montell Blake said he has been homeless for the last eight years throughout the county.

"I don't have no complaints because I chose to be homeless and even though it’s hard to get out of that situation — it’s no one’s responsibility but mine," Blake said.

Blake said he has been offered shelter but at least right now does not want to take it.

"I got a couple issues about being around groups — being too close to people," he said. "It’s not that I don’t want to accept help, it’s that why get in the way when someone can use it better than me?"

Lisa Jones with the San Diego Housing Commission said during the first week of expanded outreach just under 140 people were admitted to shelters, with the majority coming from this downtown push.

"We want to see shelter placements, we want to see exits to housing, we want to see exits to other longer term care," she said. "Maybe someone needs adult independent living care, we want to connect people to the right resources out there."

During this month long outreach city officials are also trying to identify space for a shelter that can take in those with severe substance abuse disorders.

VIDEO: Push To Get Homeless Residents Shelter Focuses On Downtown This Month