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Rescue Mission: Not an option for one-stop services center

October 4, 2010 - 3:30 pm

World Trade Center building

Tomorrow (Tuesday), the San Diego City Council will vote on whether to move ahead with plans to locate a one-stop homeless-services center plus housing inside the city-owned World Trade Center building at at Sixth Avenue and Ash Street, Downtown. Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve heard from a few people that board members for the San Diego Rescue Mission were shopping around the idea that part of the Rescue Mission’s building, located on the border of Downtown and Bankers Hill, might be a better alternative.

I just got off the phone with Herb Johnson, the Rescue Mission’s CEO, who made it clear that his organization isn’t trying to compete with the facility proposed for the World Trade Center (WTC).

“I’ve made the rounds with at least a half-dozen City Councilors in the last five days to dispel that myth,” Johnson said.

He said the source of the rumor were lobbyists hired by a Downtown business group to keep the homeless-services center out of the area they describe as San Diego’s Financial District.  The lobbyists, Johnson said, “had a meeting with at least one [Rescue Mission] board member and took the privilege to march that around as a deterrant to WTC. We are not competing with the WTC.”

One of the lobbyists he’s referring to is Craig Benedetto, who represents the San Diego Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA). Benedetto’s argued that putting a homeless-services facility in the World Trade Center building will hurt nearby businesses and deter others from moving in. Connections Housing—the partnership that’s been selected to operate the new homeless-services center—has countered that having such a facility in that neighborhood will reduce homelessness in that part of Downtown.

Johnson said his organization rents out roughly 30 percent of its building and has some vacancies coming up. “We’re trying to get the City Council’s attention to think of us in terms of either long-term housing or our clinical needs, but we are not in competition with WTC,” he said. “We’ve made it very clear with every single City Councilman and woman.”

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