The first of two "safe sleeping" areas for people without housing in San Diego opened on Thursday as part of an effort to address California's homelessness issue.
In June, the city's Homeless Strategies and Solutions Department announced its plan to expand services and provide alternative living arrangements to combat the ongoing homeless crisis. San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria emphasized the comprehensive nature of the shelter strategy, encompassing short, medium, and long-term proposals that include expanded shelter capacity, safe parking, and safe sleeping options.
Nearly a month later, at 20th and B streets in San Diego, a fresh tent camping area appeared behind a barbed-wire fence. City officials intend to set up around 136 tents to accommodate approximately 150 people and relocate them from downtown areas.
The nonprofit organization Dreams for Change will operate the site, building on its experience in maintaining "safe parking" sites for individuals living in vehicles. The campsite is designed to be a "low barrier" shelter, prohibiting weapons, alcohol, or drugs on the premises while not mandating sobriety. Homeless residents at the site will have access to restrooms, meals, and mobile showers, offering essential services for their well-being.
In the coming fall, another significant safe-sleeping site will open in a parking lot near the Naval Medical Center. This site, which can accommodate up to 400 tents, will also provide meals and additional services to support the homeless population.
In addition to establishing safe sleeping areas, the San Diego City Council has voted to prohibit tent encampments in all public spaces. The implementation of this ban is expected to take effect later this month.
San Diego faces a significant challenge in addressing its homeless population.The county that the city and its surrounding city are in has the fourth-highest number of homeless people in the whole country, according to the Department of Housing and Urban Development's 2019 report. To tackle this issue, then-Mayor Kevin Faulconer approved an $11 million contract in 2019 to construct three "bridge shelters" to provide temporary housing for those without shelter.
"We're implementing proactive measures to transition homeless individuals off the streets and offer them the necessary support," Faulconer stated during an interview with Fox News. "Our strategy revolves around connecting, supporting, and sheltering them."
Data from the Downtown San Diego Partnership reveals that nearly 2,000 people lived on the streets in April, marking the highest number over a decade. A recent count indicated that the figure had surpassed 2,100, encompassing individuals residing on sidewalks or vehicles.
Mayor Todd Gloria has proposed a city budget that allocates $81.7 million for homelessness services, representing an increase of nearly $20 million compared to the previous fiscal year. This investment underlines the city's commitment to addressing the issue and providing much-needed support to the homeless population.
Opening the safe sleeping areas in San Diego represents a crucial step towards resolving the homelessness crisis. By expanding shelter options and implementing regulations, the city aims to create a safer and more supportive environment for individuals experiencing homelessness. Through sustained efforts and continued investments, San Diego strives to make a lasting impact and improve the lives of those in need.