San Diego will open a new homeless shelter by the end of the year with plans for two others in the future, San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer announced Wednesday.
In what he described as the start of a new regional effort to combat homelessness, the mayor announced there will be three temporary shelters to give people access to showers and beds and get on the path to permanent housing.
“This will represent a significant expansion of San Diego’s homeless service network,” Faulconer said.
The temporary, so-called "bridge-to-housing" shelters will be located in downtown's East Village and in the Midway District: one in the parking lot on the Father Joe's Villages campus at 14th and Commercial streets, one in a vacant lot on Sports Arena Boulevard, and one on a vacated street at 16th Street and Newton Avenue.
The shelters will be operated by Father Joe's Village, the Veterans Village, and the Alpha Project, respectively.
Each will be a large industrial tent with more than 100 beds. They will include restrooms, showers, meals and 24-hour security, the mayor said. Each shelter will also offer support services including connections to health care, alcohol and substance abuse counseling, and job search training.
Dan Shea is one of the two local businessmen providing two of the three tents, at a cost of $1.5 million. He said the so called “bridge shelters” do not detract from housing.
“Which (housing) is what everybody’s main concern is, but housing first isn’t coming around for a long time. In the meantime, we need to get some of these people into a shelter, get assessments done and try to find a better pathway for them," Shea said.
He added that he would like to see the city move as fast as the private sector, but it is a beginning.
“I think it’s a very positive first step. In our world, we want to see things happen overnight because that’s the way we work, but they remind me government doesn’t work that way," he said. "But it’s a positive step.”
In December, an annual survey by the Downtown San Diego Partnership stated there was an average of 1,073 homeless people present in each neighborhood of downtown San Diego per a month in 2016, compared to an average of 582 homeless people for the year of 2012.
"I guarantee you, out of the 5,621 people on the streets they all don't want to be there," Shea said.
That data would suggest the average population size of homeless people living in downtown San Diego has nearly doubled in the past four years.
Faulconer said this was just a part of the regional solution and asked for ideas from others around the county to help fight the problem.
"This is going to be an investment of millions of dollars," the mayor said. "Our goal is to have one or more of these shelters open by December."
NBC 7 Investigates recently looked into the spending on homeless projects in San Diego County.
Jurisdictions in San Diego County have collectively spent more than $630 million in the past two fiscal years to combat homelessness.
Homeless Services represent almost $100 million, or 15 percent, of the total cost. About $50 million of that goes to fund mental health services, and $40 million goes to fund drug and alcohol programs.
Read more about our coverage here.
In a press release, the mayor's office said that in addition to reducing homelessness across San Diego, this shelters project aims to combat the hepatitis A outbreak that has crews spraying down and sanitizing the streets of San Diego.