It’s been two weeks since the tent-like structures the city’s used for nearly 30 years to shelter homeless adults and military vets during winter months came down for the last time.
Replacing the tents is a 350-bed, year-round, bricks-and-mortar shelter in St. Vincent de Paul’s Paul Mirable Center in East Village. Roughly 100 people moved from the tents into the PMC on April 1; another 250 are expected to move in by July 1. Up to 40 percent of the beds will be set aside for veterans.
A continuation of the winter tents — let alone a year-round shelter — wasn’t supposed to be in the city’s future. Only a few years ago, the plan was for Connections Housing, with its 134 short-term-stay beds and 73 units of permanent-supportive housing, to replace the adult winter shelter when it opened in 2013. But the city’s evolving approach to ending homelessness, plus a boost in tax revenues, resulted in money to keep the tents open. Roughly $1.5 million from the city’s general fund will cover the shelter’s $1.8 million annual operating cost.
This is homelessness we’re talking about, though, so the move is not without controversy. At a March City Council meeting, public speakers questioned whether St. Vincent de Paul was the right provider for the job and why the shelter’s operating plan called for stays to be limited to 45 days. The shelter’s 350 beds are replacing a program that’s being phased out, folks argued, meaning it’s not adding to the city’s supply of emergency beds. Meanwhile, a group of private developers is looking at whether a building just outside of downtown can become the shelter that’ll finally put a dent in San Diego’s homeless population.