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Housing Commission seeks partner to operate 'safe village' for people experiencing homelessness

The San Diego Housing Commission is looking for a social service provider to explore the concept of a "safe village" where people experiencing homelessness would be allowed to camp.

The commission put out a call this summer to organizations interested in operating a safe village after the Downtown San Diego Partnership floated the concept in February. The nonprofit did so after recording its highest ever monthly count of people living on the streets in January.

Many people experiencing homelessness avoid traditional shelters for various reasons, including crowding, strict curfews, prohibitions on pets or policies that separate people from their partners. Supporters say a safe village can offer more privacy and independence.


Josh Coyne, vice president of policy at the Downtown San Diego Partnership, said unsafe villages exist today all over downtown.

"What we're trying to do is move folks from those unsafe, unhealthy, unsanctioned villages that folks have created and move them more into ... sanctioned villages to receive the care and resources that they deserve," Coyne said.

San Diego operated a safe campground during the 2017 Hepatitis A outbreak, which was concentrated in the homeless community. The campground was located on a parking lot for city vehicles on the southern edge of Balboa Park.

The Housing Commission released its "request for qualifications" (RFQ) related to the safe village on July 1, and the deadline for service providers to respond is Monday.

The RFQ document says the commission wants to "expand its ability to serve populations that historically are hesitant to engage in the current shelter system, which may include populations that are unsheltered and living outdoors on public rights of way, or in encampments, and populations that may have higher needs, or be experiencing substance use disorder or behavioral health challenges."


The commission expects the safe village to offer "living accommodations, access to sanitation resources, meals, and connection to supportive services in a nontraditional environment that is safer than street homelessness."

Housing Commission spokesman Scott Marshall said the agency's procurement policy does not allow staff to comment on an open RFQ.

The commission does not identify any locations in the RFQ, but encourages service providers to come up with suggestions. Other facilities that serve people experiencing homelessness have faced fierce resistance from nearby residents.