SD gets $17.9 million to reduce homelessness

Posted at 7:43 PM, May 03, 2016
and last updated 2016-05-03 22:43:21-04

San Diego is facing a homelessness crisis. Crime is on the rise and residents say something has to be done.

"They'll go through all the trash cans, recyclables and they'll leave everything on the floor,” said Hillcrest resident Vanessa Chasse.

Chasse lives in an apartment located in a Hillcrest alley that attracts homeless people frequently.

"I have somebody knocking on my door with a busted head, asking me for a ride,” said Chasse. 

Her neighbor Darrin Mangan says the homeless are getting bolder. 

"Right in this gate, there's a hose on the other side of this porch and they'll take a shower,” said Mangan. 

They live across the street from where someone, back in March, torched two trash cans that burned the side of an apartment complex. That same day, the arsonist burned six other trash cans, a garage and the bed of a truck. 

“It's just like really close to home,” said Chasse. 

San Diego's Homeless advocates believe they have a solution to get people off the streets permanently.  Regional leaders are taking their annual federal grants  of nearly $18 million dollars and using it to build more permanent housing like Alpha Square on 14th street in the East Village.  It looks more like a downtown condominium.

There are 203 units.  Each one has a bed, a kitchenette, TV, refrigerator and a computer desk.

Instead of a warehouse or tent shelter, Alpha Square gives homeless residents a place to call home.  It gets them off the streets and into permanent housing right away.

"And really be able to deal with the issues that we have to deal with,” said Alpha Project Chief Operating Officer Amy Gonyeau. 

"You get your own shower , you're own bathroom.  It gives them dignity,” said Gonyeau.

Stefanie Skinner was homeless for three years.  She tried living in transitional shelters but it wasn’t the same as Alpha Square.

"You have your own personal space, you're safe.  You can set your own hours.  It’s beautiful.  It’s home.  And my dog Minerva loves it,” said Skinner.   

Alpha Square even has a rooftop deck complete with views of the city.

It may take some time, but Gonyeau is extremely confident that this new model will be a big part of what helps solve San Diego’s homelessness issue.

“We've seen the results.  It's working,” said Gonyeau. 

They're noticing people are staying at Alpha Square and not returning to the streets. People who wouldn't go to shelters before are coming here. And drug use and evictions are down.