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Father Joe's Villages' new 14-story building will take 550 people off the street

It’s a sad fact of life in San Diego, the city has one of the largest populations of unsheltered people in the country. But a major step forward today is changing that. KPBS reporter John Carroll takes us inside a new place that’s ending homelessness for hundreds of people.

The area next to MTS headquarters, in the shadow of one of the most beautiful Major League ballparks in the country, is where you find a lot of San Diego’s homeless people.

But it’s now also where you find a new 14-story building meant to get folks off the streets.

“People who’ve been on the streets for such an extended period of time and now they look elated because they have a place of their own," said Deacon Jim Vargas, the president and CEO of Father Joe's Villages.

This is the Saint Teresa of Calcutta Villa, the latest and the largest effort by Father Joe’s Villages to get people into their own homes.

Deacon Vargas cut the ribbon to officially open this shiny new facility, and just to his right was a 7-year-old girl named Abigail. She’s now a resident here with her father, Joseph Fish. They were without a home just weeks ago.

“It’s been a blessing to me and to her to have this opportunity to have something permanent and stable and something secure for my daughter and safe," said Fish, who is a veteran.

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John Carroll
Deacon Jim Vargas is joined by 7-year old Abigail Fish in cutting the ribbon to officially open the new Saint Teresa of Calcutta Villa on February 10, 2022.

Safe, secure and just beautiful: 14 floors of studios and one- and two-bedroom apartments, some set aside for veterans.

But this place is about more than apartments. There is a beautiful garden area on the third floor, and, one floor up, a family courtyard and playground, complete with two gas grills and a view.

Then, way up, a commanding view from what’s called the Community Terrace, a dog-friendly space on the 13th floor — all of it for people who, until very recently, didn’t have anywhere to live.

“It has 407 homes. It will either end the homelessness or prevent the homelessness of about 550 individuals. I’m over-the-top excited," Vargas said.

RELATED: San Diego County Supervisors approve emergency shelters, funding for homeless

Thanks to the work of a lot of people, the project came in on time and on budget during the pandemic. Vargas sees a divine hand at work.

“That’s not happenstance. You know, I know that God was with us throughout. Not that it wasn’t challenging by the way, extremely challenging, but he provided the support that we needed throughout," he said.

Saint Teresa of Calcutta Villa is now open, and, not surprisingly, it’s almost full. A place where people are finding new hope, a place where people who were very recently without a home have now found a place to call home.