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City Council Expands Mayor’s Bridge Shelter Program, Adding Fourth Site to Help Homeless Individuals

Alpha Project to Operate New Shelter That Provides Beds and Services for Up to 150 People Each Night

Tuesday, October 15, 2019 - NEWS RELEASE

San Diego – Continuing the largest expansion of homeless services in city history, the City Council today bolstered Mayor Kevin L. Faulconer’s bridge shelter program by adding a fourth facility that will increase the number of beds available for homeless individuals on a nightly basis by more than 20 percent.

Alpha Project, which currently operates the City’s largest bridge shelter, will run the new 150-bed facility at the corner of 17th Street and Imperial Avenue. Expected to open later this year, it will bring the total number of beds in the bridge shelter program to 815 citywide.

“The bridge shelters are key to tackling the statewide homeless crisis as they provide immediate relief from life on the streets and serve as launching pad to a permanent home,” Mayor Faulconer said. “There’s no one-size-fits-all solution to homelessness, but the bridge shelters have proven their effectiveness by helping hundreds of individuals turn their lives around and get into a home they can call their own. I want to thank the City Council for recognizing that success and building on it with a fourth shelter.”

The City currently operates three bridge shelters and each serves a different population: single adults, veterans and women and children. By contrast, the new shelter is designed to be more flexible and assist more than one group at a time.

Today’s action puts San Diego on a path to achieve one of the targets laid out in the City’s new Community Action Plan on Homelessness heard at Council Monday. The plan – a roadmap for creating a more comprehensive system to reduce homelessness over 10 years – calls out the need to add 350-500 crisis response options like new shelter beds, transitional housing facilities or diversion programs.

“It’s time for decisive action to address homelessness,” said City Councilmember Chris Ward. “Yesterday, the City Council approved a strategic community action plan on homelessness, and today Council approved funding for a fourth bridge shelter. This new shelter is just the first of many action items that will help us meet the goals of reducing unsheltered homelessness by 50 percent.”

After a competitive bid process, Alpha Project was ultimately awarded the contract to operate the bridge shelter with two options for renewal. The organization currently operates the bridge shelter for single adults at 16th Street and Newton Avenue that has already helped more than 380 individuals successfully exit into permanent housing or other longer-term stabilization opportunities since opening in December 2017.

“Alpha Project has proven its ability over the past few years to operate these shelters and do it right. These provide a safe and healthy transition point while our people wait for housing to become available,” said Bob McElroy, President and CEO of Alpha Project. “We’ve had cities from all over coming to see what we’re doing and for good reason.”

The bridge shelter program – overseen by the San Diego Housing Commission – provides temporary relief from the streets to hundreds of individuals every day with beds, meals, showers, restrooms, 24-hour security, alcohol and substance abuse counseling and job training as well as help to find permanent housing. The City’s bridge shelters include:

Location Operator Population Served Beds
16th St. and Newton Ave. Alpha Project Single Adults 324
2801 1/2 Sports Arena Blvd.  Veterans Village of San Diego Veterans 200
Golden Hall, 202 C St. Father Joe's Villages Women and Families 141
NEW 17th St. and Imperial Ave.  Alpha Project Flexible 150
    TOTAL 815

Dozens of agencies and government officials from Los Angeles, Seattle, Portland, New Orleans and Vancouver, as well as U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson, have visited the innovative program. These shelter resources are in addition to the City’s shelter brick-and-mortar facilities located at Connections Housing, Cortez Hill and Father Joe’s Villages.

Besides the bridge shelters, Mayor Faulconer has pushed several initiatives to address the homeless crisis and build more housing. Highlights include:

  • Housing more than 1,000 homeless veterans through the “Housing Our Heroes” initiative.
  • Expanding a Safe Parking Program that provides a safe space for homeless individuals living out of their cars or oversized vehicles. Three sites have capacity to serve more than 300 people each night.
  • Opening Storage Connect Center, a second storage facility for homeless individuals to keep their belongings while they look for a job, access services or go to school. A third site is set to open later this month.
  • Advocating in Sacramento with the Big 11 Mayors for state funding to address homelessness, which resulted in more than $14 million directly to the City of San Diego in 2019 and an estimated $20 million in 2020.
  • Adopted “Housing SD” policies and initiatives intended to increase housing affordability and supply by making permanent supportive and transitional housing permits by-right and removing costly parking mandates, among other things.
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