Downtown could lose vital resource for homeless in days

Transitional storage area needs $10K to stay open

SAN DIEGO -  

A vital local resource has just days to raise thousands of dollars or else it will be demolished.

For Tommy Rodgers, a bin contains everything he owns.

"It's your life, sitting there in your hands, looking at it," Rodgers said.

He said the hardest part about being homeless is "the way everyone looks at you, the way they walk by and just ignore you … like you're just an animal at the zoo or something."

Growing up in a small Midwest town, Rodgers never thought he'd be in this position. His mother and little brother moved to San Diego to find work, and when they couldn't, he sold everything he had to help them. He said the money quickly ran out on motels.

What's making it a little easier for Rodgers has been the Transitional Storage Center in downtown San Diego. The 4,500 square foot center houses 250 bins in the middle of downtown where the homeless can store their belongings free of charge.

It opened in January 2011 as part of a settlement with the city. About $100,000 was given to create the center and fund its first year after a 2009 incident in which the belongings of many local homeless were unlawfully destroyed. Now, it’s run by nonprofit Girls Think Tank, and it’s performed consistently under budget. But it’s in trouble.

"In this economy, it's the kind of story the center hears a lot," said Noor Kazmi, president of the Girls Think Tank. "This center is just so vital."

Vital, but it will be gone in a matter of days. The city is fulfilling its plans to turn the warehouse into low-income housing, and the center will be demolished on Sunday. If they don’t raise $10,500 by then, they won’t be able to pay rent at another site -- they won’t be able to make the move and will have to close their doors for good.
"It's so urgent at this point; we're looking at the 28th and we're gone," said Kazmi.

“The situation is very urgent, we’re looking at the 28th, this place closes down,” said Kazmi.

Not only would that impact the homeless, it will leave 30,000 pounds of junk on the street.  That’s 300 shopping carts full of stuff appearing overnight in downtown.

Councilman Todd Gloria of District 3 allocated $10,000 of his budget to the project -- not just because of the clutter. He says it also helps local homeless find jobs.

“I’d ask anyone to imagine what it takes to get a job. Think about going to a job interview with a cart, and a bag and all of your stuff. Are you going to get that job or aren’t you? You’re not. And [the center] is what’s allowing people to get off the streets,” said Gloria.

That’s exactly what it’s done for Rodgers. Since storing 100 pounds of his stuff, he's found a job working on a fishing boat trapping lobsters. He says he’s finally on the right path.

“It’s the biggest relief ever and a little weight off your shoulders -- a lot of weight, actually,” said Rodgers.

For more information on the center, or to make a  tax deductible donation, visit www.girlsthinktank.org.

 

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