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San Diego Mayor Announces Historic Plan to Create City’s Largest Homeless Shelter

-Editorial

Building on his already significant efforts to address homelessness in the City of San Diego, Mayor Todd Gloria unveiled a plan to establish the City’s largest-ever long-term shelter for people experiencing homelessness with the capacity to get 1,000 people off the street and connected to services. As part of this announcement, Mayor Gloria also provided an update on the City’s plan for the H Barracks site near the San Diego International Airport.

“We have been acting with urgency to bring people into safety from encampments on our streets and sidewalks, rivers and canyons. We now have a historic and monumental opportunity to get more than 1,000 people off the streets and connected with the services needed to end their homelessness,” said Mayor Todd Gloria. “Substantially increasing our shelter capacity will have an immediate impact as we work on the other aspects of our comprehensive approach to ending homelessness, including prevention and the creation of affordable housing.”

If approved by the City Council, a nearly 65,000-square-foot warehouse located at the intersection of Kettner Boulevard and Vine Street just north of Downtown would provide space to take more than 1,000 people off the streets. Like other City shelters, it would provide on-site security, meals, housing navigation, and case management services. Improvements will include adding showers and additional restrooms, a commercial kitchen, laundry facilities, and dining and recreation areas.

This plan would fulfill a promise Mayor Gloria made in his 2024 State of the City address to add 1,000 new beds to the City’s shelter system this year. It also serves as a response to members of the City Council who asked for expanded shelter options when the Unsafe Camping Ordinance was passed last summer. Staff from the City’s Economic Development and Homelessness Strategies and Solutions departments will present the Kettner and Vine shelter proposal to the City Council’s Land Use and Housing Committee on April 18, with the full City Council considering the proposal soon after.

“Thank you to Mayor Gloria for identifying another future shelter option to support San Diegans experiencing homelessness,” said City Councilmember Dr. Jennifer Campbell, who represents District 2, where the facility is located. “I have always been committed to providing and expanding homeless shelters in District 2, from the several shelters in the Midway District to the Safe Parking Lot in Clairemont to the H Barracks site and these additional 1,000 beds to get our unhoused neighbors off the streets and on their way back into housing.”

“This is great news for our neighborhoods,” added City Councilmember Stephen Whitburn, who represents District 3. “We will see fewer encampments on our sidewalks, and people experiencing homelessness will benefit from a safer, healthier place where they can begin to get back on their feet.”

The owner of the Kettner and Vine facility has agreed to lease the warehouse property for 35 years, with two five-year renewal options. The building improvements and shelter operations will be funded through a combination of local, state, and federal funds, along with significant contributions from generous local donors.

“San Diego Foundation believes our region’s homelessness crisis requires big ideas and bold solutions,” said Mark Stuart, President and CEO, of San Diego Foundation. “The opportunity to house up to 1,000 individuals and families in a safe, secure space with supportive services is a huge win for all San Diegans. San Diego Foundation is committed to a future where all San Diegans thrive, prosper, and feel like they belong. The Kettner & Vine solution is a big leap towards that future.”

“We applaud Mayor Gloria for executing on the commitment he made in this year’s State of the City address to expand shelter beds,” added Betsy Brennan, president and CEO of the Downtown San Diego Partnership.

“As a nonprofit dedicated to advancing the economic prosperity and cultural vitality of Downtown and a current service provider and resource to our unhoused population, our organization’s advocacy efforts remain focused on human-centered and comprehensive outreach, increasing shelter options, and expanding county and state resources to address behavioral health. With today’s announcement, the Mayor demonstrates that he understands and has listened to community concerns about the critical impact of this humanitarian crisis in our city. We are thankful for his leadership and continued commitment to not only these short-term solutions but also to the city’s long-term goal of housing to address homelessness in our communities.”

The proposed shelter is in alignment with the Comprehensive Shelter Strategy that staff from the Homelessness Strategies and Solutions Department presented to the City Council in June 2023. The Comprehensive Shelter Strategy is a living document meant to be updated to best meet the needs of the unsheltered population. Staff have continued exploring potential sites looking at estimated costs, site viability, and other criteria.

“The planned size and floorplan of the Kettner and Vine facility give the City flexibility to potentially serve multiple populations – including families, youth, and single women or men,” said Sarah Jarman, director of the City’s Homelessness Strategies and Solutions Department. “The long-term lease also enables the City to upgrade the facility based on the changing needs of unsheltered residents. This shelter would operate similarly to others, with the ultimate goal of connecting San Diegans experiencing homelessness to permanent housing.”

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