Port of San Diego teams with Alpha Project to move homeless from Embarcadero

SAN DIEGO - The Port of San Diego is partnering with a city homeless shelter to address the increase of homeless people along the Embarcadero.

Construction crews currently are working on the first phase of a multi-million dollar project to enhance the waterfront experience. However, just a few feet away from the construction, homeless men and women can be seen sleeping on the grass, making them one of the first things tourists see.

City leaders say it's a growing problem. In 2012, Harbor Police responded to more than 500 calls for service involving the homeless.

Walter Niklaus, an Army veteran who is also one of the 8,000 homeless people that call San Diego home, told 10News anchor Itica Milanes, "I was a weapons specialist, armor."

Niklaus said he was forced onto the streets about two years ago when work dried up. Now, a disability prevents the 58-year-old from returning to construction.

"There's a 7-Eleven that's opening up over by the new library. The manager said come back on the 16th, that's when I'll be taking applications," said Niklaus.

When Niklaus was asked if he has checked out the Alpha Project for a place to stay, he said he's been turned away several times.

On Tuesday, port officials announced a partnership with the Alpha Project to help transition the homeless off the streets.

Port Commissioner Marshall Merrifield said, "The $50,000 will get us two case workers for six months to interview all 110 homeless who are on the port tidelands."

Then, those in the program will be offered drug and alcohol treatment and help finding a job.

Niklaus showed up to Tuesday's news conference, and 10News put him in touch with Alpha Project officials. They promised to help him get back on his feet.

As he walked off, Niklaus said, "A new year, a new start and run with it."

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