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Alpha Project CEO frustrated by lack of progress on San Diego homeless crisis

Matthew Bowler
Bob McElroy, founder and CEO of the Alpha Project, in this photo from Sept. 26, 2016.

The number of people living on the streets in downtown San Diego is at record levels. In December, more than 1,800 people were living on sidewalks and in vehicles. The Downtown San Diego Partnership has documented a new record high every month since August.

The county numbers will be determined in the annual count later this month. But, we already know more people are falling into homelessness than are getting out. It’s a growing problem for the people on the streets, other residents, retailers and businesses. And despite intervention, the problem persists.

Bob McElroy heads the Alpha Project, an organization started in 1986, that provides assistance and shelter for unhoused people in San Diego. His organization partners with the city of San Diego on homeless services, including shelters.

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In an interview on KPBS Midday Edition, McElroy said he was frustrated.

"My first time in 35 years, I've been discouraged", he said.

McElroy said the shelters are at capacity. And, he said, new ones proposed by the city are not always well-planned.

"I have now decided we will not take on any more facilities and programs if we are not involved in the planning," McElroy said.

McElroy cites the high cost and shortage of housing in San Diego, along with the slow pace of building, as drivers of the crisis.

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He said to make a dent in the problem "You've got to be gutsy enough to do things in a grander way."

McElroy joined Midday Edition Wednesday to talk about what he is seeing on the streets, and what he thinks San Diego should be doing to address the homeless crisis.