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San Diego Homeless Struggle In Rainy Weather

A woman wraps herself in a blanket in downtown San Diego, Jan. 6, 2016.
Nicholas McVicker
A woman wraps herself in a blanket in downtown San Diego, Jan. 6, 2016.

San Diego Homeless Struggle In Rainy Weather
San Diego Homeless Struggle In Rainy Weather GUESTS:Bob McElroy, president & CEO, The Alpha ProjectTodd Gloria, San Diego City Councilman

The wind and rain we have encountered are bad enough if you have a house to go home to, what about the homeless population? Last week they announced housing plan to shelter people during El Niño, to cafeterias as the Vincent de Paul, it to seek it -- sleeping quarters. In addition to the 350 beds in the transitional shelter. This plan is being criticized for leaving hundreds of people with nowhere to go. Todd Gloria and city Council and Bob McElroy, Bob welcome to the program. As we seek -- speak you are on the San Diego River? Yes we are trying to keep these folks on the bank safe. Have you been seeing with your work, many homeless people? Last week and this week to use the homeless shelter that the city has set up? Here's the challenge, people do not have transportation or network to let the people know when the shelters open. It is weather driven, read somewhere, they were not opened last night. They were but, -- they had to revise their criteria for opening for last night. Here's my point. And less you are in the perimeter of St. Paul -- you will not get that information. Folks will not leave their stuff, there camping sites, on the street somewhere to go inside for an eight hour period. Then to go back on the street, there belongings will not be there when they get back. This is a huge challenge, you would not leave your worldly belongings somewhere to go inside for a short read of time. And then expect them to be there. This has always been a challenge. Before I go to Todd were Bob you see homeless people congregating in San Diego to take shelter from the storm's? If you go down to 16th, you can see literally hundreds of makeshift tents. Plastics, Shanti towns all away along the boulevard. We have been trying to find a housing program, there is not enough rooms at the end, we are trying to keep people as dry as possible, letting them know that there are services, when they are available, and we try to keep an eye on them. So you have heard this criticism before when this plan was announced, homeless people were not going to be able to know when they were open, they wouldn't be able to bring their stuff so they wouldn't go, we have seen it in action. What is the official assessment of how the shelters are doing? I think what we have in respect to what Bob said a moment ago, this is not something we saw 18 years ago, we saw this last year. When we have the tent system, it was only accommodated in a couple of hundred people we have 8700 people in this county. Went we have the -- when we have the tense up we still have people who are out of location. We have 350 bed year-round facility that serves people year around, along with the 250 or so capacity down in some sites in San Diego. Wet can others do? -- What can others do? There are homeless in the North County, in the South Bay, to my knowledge there are only two shelters hours and one in the North counter -- county. So the question is what are you doing to help solve this problem? For too many people they are not doing much of anything. One of the criticisms placed over the new idea of opening up the cafeteria and putting up the COTS -- cots, they were able to stay 24 seven, and it made it more likely people to choose to go find shelter, rather than to find out where the Tears are going to be open. And to be let out on the streets at 4 AM. They have the capacity, Maureen it doesn't matter what time of the heel -- of the year, forgive my concern for the homeless, not just in the holidays, it is not pleasant to be homeless in the summer when it is hot and humid, that is a bad time also, I do not get called in here to defend the position at those time, that is why it's hard to end this problem in San Diego, if you are not concerned 365 days a year, then we will not solve this problem. It is not can you get there, can you bring your pet, it is whether or not the bed exists. We provide roughly 600 beds are so today, we have 8700 in this county not in the city of San Diego, only through those two cities provide [Indiscernible] Bob McElroy , let me have you respond in a way and also ask Bob, this heightened concern due to the fact that these conditions can be life threatening? Absolutely as Todd said, nobody has done more for the city representing citizens, other than Todd glory we love him to death. 56 years something like that? Something like that. [Laughter] This was a 365 day a year problem, the awareness goes up when it is raining like Noah's Ark, it is County wide problem, I wish we can get the churches to get responsibility to deal with this or churches to bring people in either, it is always snowing downtown, there is not enough room at the end -- Inn for everybody. This is what we get. However Bob, if those shelters they are not going to be used by these people because they cannot bring their stuff, DC perhaps there might have been a better use of resources being put into the emergency plan that we have? I have been asked to do these sponsors 18 years ago, I have 10 to thousand people, the veterans have 150 vets in their structure, I never had anybody non-appreciative of the fact that they were inside and did not have to walk the street obviously I saw it worked the men and women every day, and full-time jobs we saw this up and personal everyday the city makes those decisions we are in a permanent support of housing, in our project, the support of housing, there is no stock available. I am hoping that this awareness and concern turns into a 365 day issue instead of -- who knows how long this will go on? Right. Up in LA, Mayor has promised to use shuttles to bring people to shelters, with a combined 6000 bed, Todd Gloria, do you think we can do something on a smaller scale here? Of course we can. When we announced our approach in November, it was to announce the commitment for the 250 additional beds, we put the call out to step forward and make yourself available, other service providers and other groups, we did not get a whole lot of participation out of that, transportation to wear? Right now what I would like to use this opportunity if you have a church social hall, and you are willing to open your doors please do it they did not die due to weather, but we need your help. Maybe you cut a check to alpha project, or to father Joe's, someone else who is doing this work once they provide a bed we can talk about current transportation. It's not that these beds are going unused. They are used. I came from the East Village, Bob is exactly right there are people up and down the sidewalk, once they know the doors open they want to be there. We can make this possible of folks come forward to say we have a place to put folks. Todd what you were asking it would be wonderful, if they would allow people who really need some help to stay here during the terrible weather, however, is this what we are seeing here? We have to rely on the charity on the people? What does the city have two obligations? We know the city of San Diego are safe from these terrible storms? I don't like the situation concern for the poor, people have challenges every day, we would put the funding commitment up any previous year, through the civic San Diego, we cut the ribbon in the East Village, 200 beds, 250 beds on the ninth project, opening up in the last year, hotel Sanford, a number of places have come up with beds come those are tens of millions of cities dollars that are putting forward, that is for one year round situation. That takes hundreds if not thousands of people off the streets. The city's commitment is there. As someone who continues the Council, this is a volunteer position, I do this because I care about this issue, when I say I see a good buy I get into it. Nobody has declared end to homelessness only through the nonprofit, you have the nonprofit sector and the citizens being a part of the solution, we need a whole lot more going on. We have about 300 vouchers for homeless ventures -- Boucher's -- we have homeless Boucher's that we can put at today. If you are willing to take on a homeless veteran, you should thought -- start with calling the VA. That is the kind of participation, it is not that the city has not eight outreach to hand. I understand your passion, as a city official, who is involved with this particular situation, when you see this, those people under the tents, what do you feel? It breaks my heart. We can do better than this we are phenomenal city. We have managed to take their commitment to several millions of dollars, we have a year-round facility now. We have done a lot and so much more needs to be done. One city Council will not do it needs a collaborative approach. We have outreach progress, again I get frustrated when I get these calls in the winter from someone who gives a damn suddenly about the homeless, you have to care about them year around. All year round -- this is not downtown this is Mission Hills, very nice neighborhood, it aspires me to work harder, but it must inspire so other people there are -- some other people, this would be declared a disaster, this is what happens every single day. Bob I would like to close with you, what kind of assistance can San Diego's give now? We appreciate all of the support we have from your listeners, tremendous outpouring, with jackets and Blackett -- blankets. We need plastic. 55 gallons plastic trash bags, we have given out jackets, this weather is not going to be dry, as Todd said we agree. We have been working side-by-side for decades it seems. Yes. A decade goal. I hope the message gets out that this is a message 365 days a year, we have a solvable problem in San Diego, LA has 50,000 people, we can solve this in San Diego. There has to be a collective participation from all concerned citizens out there. I am over time, I want to add a rector for church in Delmar, the church is doing something the interfaith shelter network is working in San Diego. I would like to thank our guest City Councilman Todd Gloria, and Bob [Indiscernible] thank you so much. Thank you.

Nearly 800 homeless people were hunkered down in tents and under plastic tarps in downtown San Diego on Wednesday, the region's second day of heavy El Niño rains.

Bob McElroy, president of the nonprofit Alpha Project, said his organization was distributing blankets, sheets of plastic and clothes to the homeless.


"We're doing the best we can to help as many people as we can," McElroy said.

Dozens of people hunker down in tents on 16th Street in downtown San Diego awaiting another round of
forecasted torrential rains, Jan. 6, 2016.
Susan Murphy
Dozens of people hunker down in tents on 16th Street in downtown San Diego awaiting another round of forecasted torrential rains, Jan. 6, 2016.

Alpha Project administered San Diego's winter tents until they were permanently taken down on April 1 last year.

The city replaced the tents with year-round indoor beds administered by Father Joe's Village. That homeless organization also began an inclement weather emergency shelter service, which opened for the first time last week.

Yana Titova, spokeswoman for Father Joe's Village, said the organization opened its emergency shelter again Tuesday night, despite the weather conditions not meeting its criteria of being below 50 degrees and having at least a 40 percent chance of rain.

Father Joe's was not planning on opening the beds Wednesday night, "because the weather still doesn’t meet the criteria and is predicted to be more mild," Titova said.


San Diego is still short hundreds of beds for the homeless, McElroy said. Some homeless also decline to stay in the beds that do exist because they don't want to leave behind their belongings or pets. To stay at Father Joe's, they have to do that.

"I'm just hoping that maybe the light will go on somewhere and we can find — maybe it's even a warehouse somewhere — where we can actually bring people in on a 24-hour basis," he said.

The city council voted last March to replace the winter tents, in an effort to provide more comprehensive services to the homeless.

Mayor Kevin Faulconer spokesman Craig Gustafson said in an email that the change provides shelter "indoors with supportive services — consistent with national best practices — as opposed to in outdoor tents with no services." He added that homeless people live in tents downtown throughout the year, regardless of the weather.

Councilman Todd Gloria represents downtown and spearheaded the change from winter tents with Faulconer. He said the year-round shelter has connected hundreds of homeless in the past year to support services when the winter tents would not have been open.

"While I remain troubled that so many people remain homeless, I am proud that the cycle of homelessness has been broken for some," Gloria said in an e-mail. "Taxpayer money is housing more people for less cost with more services year round in a warm building than we formerly spent for a few weeks in a cold tent."

Rain and flash flood warnings are expected to continue this week.

Homeless Brace for Storm in Downtown San Diego