San Diego

Concerns Grow Over Funding for Homeless Bridge Shelters

A homeless advocate says the temporary shelters are like a band-aid for the problem, rather than a real solution.

Concerns have grown over how much the city of San Diego’s three Temporary Bridge Shelters for the homeless is going to cost taxpayers.

Mayor Kevin Faulconer announced the project back in September, at the height of the city’s Hepatitis A outbreak. Councilmembers Lorie Zapf and Chris Ward have supported the project from the beginning, as has Supervisor Ron Roberts, who chairs the county’s Regional Task Force for the homeless.

Homeless advocate Michael McConnell, however, argues the shelters do not go far enough for the homeless individuals already living in tents.

"It's gonna be a place for people to get off the street, but it's literally a place that they left their tent over on the sidewalk, and they just get into a bigger tent with a cot," McConnell said.

McConnell supports the San Diego Housing Commission’s “Housing First” approach, which aims to get the homeless into homes, through landlord incentives, rental assistance and permanent supportive housing projects.

But the Housing Commission is now proposing to transfer $6.5 million dollars in “Housing First” funds to the Temporary Bridge Shelters.

“It’s diverting our attention and our resources away from real solutions into more band-aids,” McConnell said.

According to the proposal, the funding will cover 700 people across three shelters for seven months, at a cost of $43.39 a day. The $6.5 million would also pay for two new employees to administer the Housing Commission’s responsibilities under the Temporary Bridge Shelter program.

In a statement, Faulconer said, “The San Diego Housing Commission’s goal of providing permanent, affordable housing will not be affected by temporary bridge shelter funding. We have a public health emergency that requires immediate action. The quickest way to pay for the temporary bridge shelters, to ensure they are constructed as expeditiously as possible in order to get people off of the streets and into safer, more sanitary living conditions, was out of Housing Commission funds.”

Faulconer also said the city is working with the Housing Commission to fill any immediate gaps with “Housing Successor” funds that have already been earmarked for affordable housing. Those funds resulted from the wind-down of the San Diego Redevelopment Agency.

The proposal must still be approved by the City Council.

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