Notes from today’s homeless-services center outreach meeting
If there’s organized opposition to the homeless-services center that’s planned for Downtown, it wasn’t very apparent at a community forum this morning put on by the Downtown San Diego Partnership. But, apparently, opposition was anticipated. A poster board listing ground rules for the meeting included “Avoid dramatic outbursts.”
(Quick background: Last year, the city of San Diego issued a request for proposals for a one-stop homeless-services center. The winning proposal was submitted by Los Angeles-based PATH—whose PATH Mall is held up as a model of a one-stop service center. PATH proposes locating the service center, which would include 75 units of supportive housing and 150 shelter beds, in the World Trade Center located at 1250 Sixth Ave. In April, the City Council’s Land Use and Housing Committee delayed voting on the project in order to give neighboring businesses and residents more time to have their concerns addressed.)
A May 17 San Diego Business Journal article by Jason Hughes, of real estate company Irving Hughes (the “Life is a lease; negotiate well” guys, if you listen to KPBS), accuses CCDC of “working under a cloak of secrecy” in selecting the project’s location and suggests that such a facility will act as a magnet for homeless people. Hughes writes:
Then, there’s Copley Symphony Hall, just a short walk away, where black-tie and evening-gowned patrons would be dodging the shopping carts and other contraptions being steered or carried about by these new financial district denizens.
But, as PATH CEO Joel Roberts pointed out this morning, the homeless are already there. PATH did a survey on May 17 and counted 246 people sleeping on the street within a quarter-mile of the World Trade Center. They didn’t count people sleeping in tents, meaning that the street population for that area is likely closer to 300. Almost half of the people they surveyed were women, only 3 percent weren’t long-time residents of San Diego and, among those counted, the average time on the street was four years. “Four years is a long time,” Roberts said.
One-quarter of the people the PATH team talked to had some sort of monthly income, making them good candidates for permanent supportive housing—a best-practices model that couples housing and case-management services. Residents of such housing are usually asked to pay one-third of their income in rent.
“These people are the most housing-ready of anyone in the area,” Roberts said. “We can get a significant number of these people off the streets because they’re ready.”
Roberts said that during the process of siting PATH facilities in L.A. and Long Beach, “the fear was that if you take people out of an area, more people will fill those spots. That just hasn’t happened.”
He said that the plan is to make sure the neighborhood “has a sense of control—the neighborhood is part of the design phase and implementation phase” of the project. Once it opens, there will be around the clock security, no loitering, no lines, a hotline that people can call if there are problems and regular meetings of a neighborhood advisory committee.
Cissy Fisher, vice president of special housing initiatives for the San Diego Housing Commission, emphasized that this one project isn’t intended to solve Downtown’s homeless problem: “This is one piece of a solution; it’s not the only thing we can do Downtown.”