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Quality of Life

San Diego to open Balboa Park 'safe sleeping' site for unhoused residents

San Diego opened a new Safe Sleeping program at the City of San Diego’s Central Operations Station parking lot. The site can accommodate up to 136 tents, each can house a single person or a couple. The opening of the Safe Sleeping tents coincides with the activation of the city’s new Unsafe Camping Ordinance. The ordinance prohibits camping in all public spaces if shelter beds are available, San Diego, June 28, 2023.
Matthew Bowler
Tents are shown at the City of San Diego’s Central Operations Station parking lot in Golden Hill on June 28.

San Diego will begin accepting unhoused residents at its second Safe Sleeping Program site in Balboa Park Saturday, Mayor Todd Gloria said Friday.

The program is intended to offer safe, legal camping for unsheltered San Diegans. The O Lot Safe Sleeping site, located on city property at the edge of Balboa Park near the Naval Medical Center, has capacity for up to 400 tents, each allowing space for two people.

In addition to tents, the program is providing on-site amenities and services, including meals, restrooms, showers, laundry, storage trailers, case management, basic needs assistance and resource referrals, according to the city.


"Building on the success of our first Safe Sleeping site, the O Lot is an opportunity for many more people who've become homeless to work on getting back on their feet in a safe, sanitary environment," Gloria said. "I'm grateful to city staff for working around the clock to get the site ready to welcome people in off the streets and get them on a path to permanent housing."

San Diego opened the program's first site in June at an operations yard at 20th and B streets in Golden Hill. That site currently serves 148 people in 122 tents, according to the city.

"When I envisioned the Safe Sleeping Initiative, I knew it would be impactful, and it has exceeded my expectations. The opening of this second location is evidence of this program's success," City Councilman Stephen Whitburn said. "Many unsheltered people are choosing to leave our sidewalks and stay instead at Safe Sleeping sites with security, bathrooms, showers, meals and connections to housing."

"These sites play an important role in our effort to help people get off the streets and improve public health and safety for all San Diegans," Whitburn said.

According to the city, operation of the O Lot site will be broken into three subsections, or tiers. Two of the tiers will be operated by Dreams for Change, which oversees the other Safe Sleeping site; the remaining tier will be operated by the Downtown San Diego Partnership.


"Dreams for Change is excited to be part of this new expansion," CEO Teresa Smith said. "In the past three months, we learned what it would take to scale this program to serve more vulnerable, unsheltered people who were living on the streets without daily support."

To prepare the site, city crews expanded and stabilized an access road for travel to and from O Lot. The road was widened to allow for delivery and emergency vehicles and will be used only for Safe Sleeping Program access.

The sites were chosen in May after a review of vacant city-owned land, followed by preparation work.

"We are confident that this new chapter of our impact as an organization aligns with the expertise of our team and the mission and vision of the Downtown San Diego Partnership," said Betsy Brennan, president and CEO of the partnership. "With the commitments made by the city of San Diego as leaders of this effort, we are ready to double down on the solutions-oriented and successful work of our Unhoused Care Team to get people off the streets into stability and safety, and to continue to work alongside our clients with a human-centered and compassionate approach to ensure they are stably housed."

The city also purchased insulated tents that will help regulate temperatures, and crews built platforms to be placed underneath each tent.

San Diego's Homelessness Strategies and Solutions Department is working to set up a free shuttle service for clients to transport them between downtown and the two Safe Sleeping Program sites.

People experiencing homelessness can be referred to the program through the city's Coordinated Street Outreach Program or through the San Diego Police Department.

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