SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - A little more than a year in, homeless people using the new storage lockers in Sherman Heights are still having trouble finding homes.
According to new numbers released by the San Diego Housing Commission, 895 people have used the storage lockers since they opened last June. But only 9%, 79 of them have been able to find longer-term or permanent housing.
Lisa Jones, the Senior Vice President of Homeless Housing Innovations for the SD Housing Commission, admits that number is low. But she says people should not look at it as a condemnation of the project. She says the locker facility isn't designed to help people find housing, but to direct them to resources that can.
"If this were a shelter program, that's a number we'd expect to be higher," Jones says. "But we see it as a positive number, considering the fact that we don't actually have case management services on that site."
However, the storage facility seems to be struggling to connect homeless people with those resources. According to the same study, only 22% of the people using the shelters are currently working with a case manager or social service provider. Of those, only 45.5% met with a case manager in the last week before the survey.
But, Jones says the storage site still serves as a critical gateway for homeless people to get help.
"It's an engagement opportunity that's unique because they're building relationships with the folks as they come in," she says. "They can help reorient them and get them reconnected to services if they're not. And if they are in services, they can make sure they're accessing them to the best effect."
Jones also says the new numbers show that neighbors fears of the facility bringing more homeless people to the area are unfounded. An average of 120 people visit the site each day, but they rarely stay in the Sherman Heights area.
Before the storage facility opened, 12.5% of the people who answered the survey said they slept in Sherman Heights or Logan Heights. That number has since dropped to 10%. Meanwhile, the number of people sleeping downtown has gone up from 66% to 69.5%.
Jones says one of the most significant bright spots from the survey is the fact that 68% of the people using the lockers say they're still actively looking for a place to live. She says that's particularly encouraging because 73% of the facility's users say they are chronically homeless.
"When you get into that chronic homelessness, your challenges get greater," says Jones. "To some degree, you get disenfranchised or frustrated with the experience. It's the kind of thing where the longer you're homeless, the more challenging that life back into housing can become."
Jones also says the lockers have allowed more homeless people to be able to work and go to school. Because of the lockers, they don't have to bring their belongings with them everywhere they go or worry about them being stolen overnight.
"We have people in these programs that are employed, that are bringing in work boots and tools at night because they don't want to store them on the street," says Jones. "We have people that use the programs that are in school, and they keep books and laptops and things like that in there.
"There's a value to the safety and security that you can't see in numbers."