After months of waiting on Mayor Kevin Faulconer and other city to leaders to make dramatic moves to help San Diego’s surging homeless population, two power brokers are effectively calling their bluff.

They’ll provide large industrial tents to house the homeless, if city leaders supply the land and political will.

The mayor has repeatedly promised to quickly add hundreds of new shelter beds. That hasn’t happened yet.

So Padres managing partner Peter Seidler and restauranteur Dan Shea, who have spent months discussing shelter options with Faulconer and others, on Thursday announced philanthropists are prepared to buy tents to temporarily house hundreds now sleeping on the street. The catch is that they’ll need a place to put them – and contracts with outside agencies to operate them.

“We’d like to get them up immediately,” Shea said at a Thursday press conference. “What we did is we introduced a plan in the absence of any other plan for the short term.”

They’ve committed to purchasing multiple tents, which cost an estimated $800,000 each. They believe the tents can serve as a temporary refuge for homeless people while the city builds the housing and other options needed to end their homelessness.


We Stand Up for You. Will You Stand Up for Us?

City Councilman Chris Ward, who represents the downtown neighborhoods most impacted by homelessness, on Wednesday made some short-term proposals of his own. In a memo, he called for the city to discuss whether Golden Hall or the former Chargers practice site could serve as short-term housing options for homeless people. He’s also advocating a look at city-controlled parking lots to see if they could be safe sites for the homeless to park or stay without fear of police enforcement, among other ideas.

“I want to do something now, and I mean it,” Ward said.

Ward’s ideas are set to be discussed Monday at the homelessness select committee he leads.

Heated debates about all of the above are a given. Advocates disagree on the best approach to address the city’s tragic problem. Some maintain that the focus should be linking homeless people to permanent homes, the solution that ultimately solves their homelessness, while others have said more immediate help is also needed. Then there are individual neighborhoods’ concerns about shelter locations.

Meanwhile, many homeless people have concerns with the shelter options the city’s already got, citing everything from worries about the number of people packed into them to their inability to bring pets or partners in with them.

The short-term proposals speak to mounting frustration over San Diego’s growing homeless problem. Street homelessness has spiked 31 percent in the city since 2014. Homeless encampments dominate some blocks downtown and are increasingly popping up throughout the city – and Faulconer earlier this year promised swift help that hasn’t come yet.

The mayor has said his team continues to work behind the scenes to seek hundreds of new shelter beds, more storage for homeless people’s belongings and other help.

Faulconer said last month he’s trying to ensure both stakeholders and key details are lined up before he proceeds. He wants to make sure proposals can become reality.

But Seidler, Shea and Ward have decided San Diego can’t afford to keep waiting.

“I think the problem is growing to a level where it’s very clear to all of us San Diego citizens that something really impactful needs to be done,” said Seidler, who said he also believes the region needs to invest in long-term solutions.

A Faulconer spokesman on Thursday said the mayor welcomed Seidler and Shea’s financial commitments and noted the challenges his own efforts have faced.

“There is no perfect spot for homeless services and the city does not own any property that doesn’t come with serious challenges, whether they be logistical or financial,” spokesman Craig Gustafson wrote in an email. “The mayor is committed to finding a site and city staff continues to follow the mayor’s direction to identify a suitable location.”

Gustafson said the mayor’s office also looked forward to reviewing Ward’s proposals.

But Shea, Seidler and Ward are hoping for more than a discussion.

“It’s about doing something. We’ve got a lot of information. We’ve got a lot of different ideas and plans,” Shea said. “If we’re going to wait for everyone to get on board 100 percent we’re not ever gonna do anything so we’re trying to remove the obstacles to get down to the most common denominator to quickly take people off (the street).”

    This article relates to: Government, Growth and Housing, Homelessness, Housing, Politics

    Written by Lisa Halverstadt

    Lisa writes about San Diego city and county governments. She welcomes story tips and questions. Contact her directly at lisa@vosd.org or 619.325.0528.

    19 comments
    Fighting the Good Fight
    Fighting the Good Fight

    All this dancing around the fact that the city realizes - There is NO Return on Investment when it comes to the homeless situation. Why invest $20 Million into a cause that has no return on it? 

    Ross Thomas
    Ross Thomas

    Hello San Diego, We are all creatures of habit and we all have tendencies toward the things we repeatedly think about and do. Most people know the truth in the saying " The definition of insanity is doing and thinking the same things over and over and expecting different results" There REALLY are models and courses of action and examples that really do work to help people improve their lives from the inside out. one great example that comes to mind is the Delancey Street Foundation that started up in San Francisco that helps folks who have hit bottom through peer groups helping and teaching each other one step at a time to develop and practice skills and behaviors that build confidence and self esteem and build new and better habits starting at the simplest of tasks and behaviors. I have been thinking for some time a Delancey Street Chapter or something like it needs to be started here in San Diego  for some time. Everyone of us has things in our life we know need to change in order to improve. Weather you are a homeless person or living in luxury we all struggle inside ourselves at times with change and "thinking we can" I know I do! and I am so thankful I have people who love me that are behind me encouraging me through all i go through. I can only imagine how lonely and helpless and unfamiliar of a better or different way some of the homeless are. Most people are not fully aware just how great an influence the thoughts we think the things we see and the things we do RULES who we are and who we are becoming. If WE as people not at the bottom can learn this stuff, WE CAN use it to everyones advantage and work together as one mastermind for change working in perfect harmony for a definite major purpose, Most of you reading this will already know the best way to learn something is to teach it to someone else!  I believe we will not only help the homeless get out of the gutters we'll get our own butts out of the ruts we find ourselves in what ever there size. I'm ready to start. There are allot of comic book HEROES here in San Diego this week end  Who wants to BE a real hero and GIVE themselves to a worthy cause and DO Something?!!! I DO! I love San Diego and people and I do also realize this problem is complicated and that some of the homeless are not all there in there minds and it is a gut wrenching affair to see. I am open and willing to help in this effort keep me posted!

    Louis Rodolico
    Louis Rodolico

       City Council just handed over about 60 million dollars to Westfield and other corporations by removing the Regents Road Bridge from the community plan. Westfield wants all traffic funneled up Genesee Avenue and removing the bridge does that. Removing the bridge means we need two additional fire stations instead of one. The total century cost is 1.4 billion when; man hours in traffic, gasoline and other costs are added in. That is allot of money for the homeless and other city needs. See:   https://issuu.com/theclairemonttimes/docs/clairemont_times_may_2017    Page 11

    Don Wood
    Don Wood subscriber

    Scott Sherman went along with the vote to buy a run down hotel in the south bay and export some of the homeless from downtown to that hotel, saying that

    all the council members need to contribute to the solution of downtown homeless when Alvarez complained about homeless getting dumped into his district.

    I haven't read that Sherman is offering to host any kind of homeless shelters in his own district. Hypocrisy of the first order.

    Don Wood
    Don Wood subscriber

    @Al Allen @Don Wood The article doesn't include any mention of Councilman Sherman supporting this proposal. Does he? Yes or no.

    Al Allen
    Al Allen

    @Don Wood @Al Allen Once again I have to educate you, show you how to do research.

    Read the article, learn how "Only Councilman David Alvarez" cast the lone "No" vote. 

    http://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/news/politics/sd-me-motel-homeless-20170717-story.html

    Once again Alvarez is out of touch with the others.

    http://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/news/politics/sd-me-housing-ideas-20170126-story.html

    Again no need to thank me for educating you. It's what I do. You are welcome.  
    Spent enough of my valuable time with you Grasshopper. You are on your own, have a great weekend.

    TJ Apple
    TJ Apple subscribermember

    I share Peter and Dan's frustration, the homelessness issue has reached crises level, this is a state of an emergency and yet government is paralyzed. Unfortunately we see this over and over, government fails to act, the private sector steps forward with a solution only to be stalled by the same government. Give the land, erect the tents and move the homelessness into them where services can be centralized to help those who want more than food and shelter.

    Pete DeMaster
    Pete DeMaster

    The tents have created an environment that is not safe, and actually ENCOURAGES more drug use.  Tents are cheap, and provide privacy, which allow more drug use. 


    If you have to go to the shelter, you can't use drugs.  I see "homeless" signs all over our intersections asking for compassion.  I don't have compassion for a junkie that needs his next fix.  Mental illness, yes.  Drug use, no. 


    We need to make it more difficult and UNCOMFORTABLE for these people to use.  Maybe if they didn't have shade, privacy, protection from the elements, it would be just enough to keep a few more people from not wanting to run the cycle one more time. 


    What happens to a child if you do all of their work for them?  It's the same thing.  Enforce the rules, create order, and make it HARD for people to exist on the streets.  They will find a better way to survive. 



    Also, put the tents up at the Q.  Plenty of room in the corners.  Public transportation is there.  Set up some portable toilets, and your good.  SDSU football should be able to coexist. 

    Catherine Derecki
    Catherine Derecki

    @Pete DeMaster I'm curious to see the data demonstrating that an increase in discomfort somehow leads people to seek recovery. Fascinating hypothesis.

    Pete DeMaster
    Pete DeMaster

    Who cares about data when your neighborhoods are overrun with this problem? I'd love to see some data on the number of people that won't leave their apartment at night to walk anywhere because of the drug problems and lawlessness on city sidewalks. My wife and I would be counted in that, because we don't walk in Balboa Park anymore in the evenings. We drive from downtown to Mission Bay or Coronado.

    Laws are made to serve everyone, and to keep and restore order. It's time to start enforcing laws again.

    In my world, pain is a deterrent. I don't need a public taxpayer funded study to tell me that.

    rhylton
    rhylton subscriber

    The sentence "The mayor has said his team continues to work behind the scenes....." reminds me of a person who, on being challenged, asserts that they will stand "behind"  the whatever. They stand "far behind", much the same way that the mayor's team works. So far behind that the results of their work are never seen 

    rhylton
    rhylton subscriber

    I have to look it up, for I never watched that movie.

    mike murphy
    mike murphy

    whats the logic behind placing the shelters in the prime locations, not on the outskirts ?