February 6, 2014; XETV-TV, San Diego 6
There are many ways that Todd Gloria, interim mayor of San Diego, is not like his predecessor, Bob Filner. His take on the issue of homelessness is one example. Filner, who resigned last year following multiple allegations of sexual harassment, hoped to keep San Diego’s city-sponsored winter shelters, typically only open Thanksgiving through Easter, available year-round. These shelters have not closed since November 2012.
Gloria believes the money could be better spent. In his “State of the City” address last week, he proposed that San Diego close the winter shelters and instead spend the $1.9 million in general funds on programs that he believes have proven more effective in reducing homelessness.
His proposal includes:
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- $800,000 in assessment and case management for the winter shelter, including case management services for veterans.
- $400,000 to the Regional Task Force on the Homelessness to implement a coordinated Homeless Management Information System. This type of system is required by the Department of Housing and Urban Development to be in place in order to receive federal homeless dollars.
- $120,000 for the Serial Inebriate Program for chronic homeless alcoholics cycling through various facilities, allowing the county to increases services from 12 to 32 individuals at any given time.
- $80,000 for the Neil Good Day Center, a haven for many of San Diego’s homeless and a place where they can make phone calls, take showers, and use computers.
- $40,000 to augment the San Diego Police Department’s Homeless Outreach Teams.
- $150,000 for a storage facility, currently operated by Girls Think Tank, where more than 300 homeless may safely leave belongings while looking for work or attending doctor appointments.
- $300,000 to fill a funding gap at Connections Housing, a downtown shelter providing 223 interim and supportive-housing beds.
The two mayoral candidates, David Alvarez and Kevin Faulconer, both appear to support Gloria’s proposal.
Gloria’s proposed changes are not without controversy. Many are concerned Gloria would in effect be closing the winter shelters and displacing the 375 people currently using those beds. “The representation that the tents were going to be open year-round is illusory,” he stated, according to San Diego City Beat. “It wasn’t funded that way, and it’s one of the things we’ve been trying to deal with.”
San Diego has an estimated 5,700 homeless residents, approximately 3,100 of whom live on the streets. San Diego also has a significant portion of migrant farmworkers living in makeshift housing in canyons near residential areas.
There is, clearly, a lot of work to be done. As Gloria stated in his address, “We cannot be America’s Finest City with thousands of our neighbors living on our streets.” Hopefully, the next mayor is as committed to underserved San Diegans as Gloria is.—Jennifer Amanda Jones