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Challenges emerge at hotels turned housing

Posted at 4:39 PM, Oct 15, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-15 20:16:55-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — New challenges are emerging a year after the city bought two hotels to house some of our region's most vulnerable people.

The city spent $106.5 million in October 2020 to convert two former Marriott Residence Inns into housing for homeless people with disabilities.

But Judy Brown-Marino says it hasn't gone well for many, including her brother, who lives in the former extended stay hotel in Kearny Mesa.

“This was supposed to be different,” she told the San Diego Housing Commission board Friday. “This was supposed to be a more empowering and healing experience, but the reality is most of the residents are living in fear, depression."

To qualify, residents had to be homeless and have at least one disability, such as with drugs, alcohol, or developmental.

On-site services include behavioral, mental health, life skills and employment training

“Giving someone a key to an apartment does not make the issues they face just automatically go away, even with the supportive services available to them,” said Rick Gentry, the commission’s CEO.

Since December move-ins at the Kearny Mesa and Hotel Circle locations, 12 residents have died -- some from overdose, some off site, some from natural causes. At its virtual meeting Friday, housing commissioners noted death rates and police calls are consistent with other types of permanent supportive housing.

However, they also identified a gap in staffing at the former hotels.

“The pay scale for some of this work is just too low,” said board member Ryan Clumpner “This is clearly very difficult work and if we're having trouble, it's got to have something to do with how much we're compensating here.”

Still, commissioners said this population faces extreme challenges, and expressed gratitude to have the 389 of them housed to begin with. They also discussed getting a share of new money coming available from the state.

In a statement, the housing commission says it will work with the city, county and regional task force on homelessness and service providers to advance new solutions.