Hope for the Homeless?

Bid package goes before City Council next week

Is finding a long-term answer to homeless a hopeless proposition?

The city of San Diego isn't ready to give up hope.

Housing Commission officials are asking City Council approval to seek bids on a year-round, multi-service facility to tackle all the problems that have vexed public agencies for decades.

They're thrown a lot of money at the so-called "indigent, transient population", and bought only short-term relief and long-term frustrations.

Now, a more cost-effective approach seems to be on the table.

"Essentially, it's to try to get all the different service providers on one page for comprehensive solutions," says Kyla Winters, chief development officer for the Alpha Project, which operates San Diego's winter shelter for the homeless under a city contract.

That approach, Winters said in an interview, means " the homeless won't have to go to twenty places to get the needed services."

Government studies show that only 10 to 20 percent of the homeless are "chronic" cases, but they account for half of the public money targeting homelessness, if not its related crime and health issues as well.

Officials say the worst-case costs run from $35,000 to $150,000 a year.

"Not only are you dealing with health issues, you're going to have cops come down to deal with issues, paramedics, emergency room visits.

"On the back end, it winds up being so much more expensive than just providing the solution on the front end."

Wilie Gomez, a resident of this year's winter shelter at 15th Street and Island Avenue, hails the idea of a permanent shelter.

"The need something long-term so that people will get situated in something that will be implanted and last forever," Gomez said in an interview.

"People won't have to be coming to the shelters any more.  and it won't cost the government so much money, and the crime rate."

The Council is scheduled to address the request for proposals from prospective year-round shelter operators at its meeting on Tuesday.

A Housing Commission report cites successful models such as the PATH Mall in Los Angeles, and St. Patrick's Partnership Center in St. Louis.

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