San Diego Housing Commission opening winter homeless shelter downtown

220-bed shelter offers health care, services

SAN DIEGO - More than 200 homeless men and women will have a place to stay during the winter months along with access to health care and mental health and substance abuse counseling thanks to the opening of the city's Downtown Emergency Winter Homeless Shelter Friday.

The temporary shelter inside a tent at 16th Street and Newton Avenue can house 220 occupants at a time. Last year, more than 730 men and women stayed at the shelter between late November and early April, according to the San Diego Housing Commission, which was in its third year of administering the shelter per an agreement with the city.

Last year, 44 percent of those served at the shelter were older than 50 years old and 60 percent had a disability, including mental illness, a physical disability or a chronic illness, according to the nonprofit Alpha Project, which handles the shelter's daily operations.

The City Council in July approved the commission's proposal to administer the shelter during the 2012-13 season to transition to the delayed opening of the permanent Connections Downtown Housing in the World Trade Center building at 1250 Sixth Ave.

"I would like to give special thanks to our San Diego City Council and the San Diego Housing Commission for their forward thinking in making the emergency winter shelter possible, as we all prepare to move into Connections Housing Downtown next year," Alpha Project President and Chief Executive Officer Bob McElroy said.

On Monday, United Healthcare donated $250,000 to the housing commission to help fund the temporary cold weather shelter. The insurance company was also underwriting the permanent shelter.

"We appreciate the City of San Diego taking action to open the emergency winter shelter this year while the year-round housing and services facility Connections Housing Downtown begins to set up operations in January," commission President and Chief Executive Officer Richard C. Gentry said.

The city has conducted an emergency shelter program for adults each winter since 1987, according to the commission.

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