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City, county open facility for homeless San Diegans with substance abuse

KPBS Health Reporter Matt Hoffman explains how the specialized shelter will work.

A Community Harm Reduction Team facility for unsheltered San Diego residents with substance abuse and mental illness issues opened Wednesday.

"San Diegans can see it across our city — many of our unsheltered neighbors are very sick and in need of specialized help. It is a serious crisis," Mayor Todd Gloria said. "Our existing shelters aren't appropriate for everyone.

"This new shelter represents our latest step in our homelessness- response efforts and will create an entry point for people who we have had difficulty connecting to safe shelter and the more intensive supportive services they require," he said.

The C-HRT is a joint effort between the county's behavioral health services and the city to connect eligible people with "shelter, case management, permanent housing, behavioral health services and medical care," according to a statement from the new facility.

The city-owned facility, located in a former Pier 1 Imports building in the Midway community, will consist of 24-hour staffing and 44 beds operated by Alpha Project through a contract with the San Diego Housing Commission. The outreach and case management will be handled by Family Health Centers of San Diego through a contract with the county.

"Community Harm Reduction Teams and the interim shelter is a new approach between the county and city to get people off the street and provide the support they need in their fight against addiction," said county Board of Supervisors Chairman Nathan Fletcher. "This new effort offers a great opportunity for homeless San Diegans to get on a path of wellness, stability and permanent housing."

According to the city, Family Health Centers of San Diego will provide substance use counselors, peer support, mental health clinicians and nurse practitioners for medical consultation.

Alpha Project intends to maintain a clean and safe environment and discouraging loitering in the vicinity of the shelter.

Additionally, the city and county are working to expand the C-HRT program to include additional sites — called C-HRT Safe Havens — that can provide care for clients with a more serious level of behavioral health challenges.