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Millions available to help San Diego cities build homeless shelters

The San Diego County Board of Supervisors approved a $10 million grant program Tuesday to help cities build homeless shelters.

"It’s something the county normally does not do in funding safe shelters, safe parking and safe campsites," said San Diego County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher. "I think this is an important thing to partner with the cities and realize we have a shared obligation to meet this — and I really look forward to cities stepping up."

The county has also committed to providing behavioral health services for any new shelters. For the next 30 days, county staff will accept shelter funding proposals from across the region. Officials said they want to move quickly and fund projects that are ready to go.

"I think the point in time count numbers last week reinforce what we already know — that we’re in a dire homeless situation across our region," said San Diego County Supervisor Terra Lawson-Remer.

Data from the point in time count over the last two years shows homelessness has increased by at least 10% in San Diego County. That total is now 8,400 people, just under half of whom are not in a shelter or any type of supportive housing.

"Shelters solve sleep, housing solves homelessness, but getting people into a shelter can get them engaged with the services they need and help connect them into permanent housing," Fletcher said in support of the proposal.

While the county is encouraging other cities to create shelters, they are making progress on a shelter of their own. Work has started on the Midway site, which is located at the county health complex near Rosecrans Street. The 150-bed shelter is a partnership with the city of San Diego.

"(A) shelter is also a way to get people immediately off the streets," said Hafsa Kaka, San Diego's director of homelessness strategies and solutions. "Which also impacts the quality of life that we see across the board."

Last week city and county officials fielded questions about the shelter from the Midway-Pacific Highway Community Planning Group. The site is set to open in early July, but unlike other city shelters, this one will have 24-hour intakes.

"So when someone decides okay its 10:30 at night, 'I’m done, I want a place to stay,' we can accommodate that," said the San Diego Housing Commission's Lisa Jones. "So the model that we’re building out in this shelter is a little different, really low barrier and to be accommodating."

On Tuesday the county board of supervisors also accepted state funding for their youth housing program and homeless outreach teams.