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Construction begins on ‘a place of healing’ for homeless in Midway District

Workers begin construction May 31 on a new homeless shelter on Rosecrans Street in the Midway District.
Workers begin construction May 31 on a new homeless shelter behind the San Diego County Health and Human Services Complex on Rosecrans Street in the Midway District. The shelter will be able to serve up to 150 people.
(Eduardo Contreras / The San Diego Union-Tribune)

The new shelter will have 125 beds at first and will serve people with mental health issues and drug and alcohol addictions.

Construction has begun in the Midway District on what will be the city of San Diego’s first homeless shelter to provide 24-hour intakes and a focus on people with mental illness and addictions.

The shelter is being built behind the San Diego County Health and Human Services Complex and the Psychiatric Hospital of San Diego County on Rosecrans Street. The Alpha Project, which operates a harm-reduction shelter and two large tented shelters in downtown San Diego, will oversee the new shelter, while the county will provide staffing for psychiatric and health services.

The new shelter will open sometime in July with 125 beds and could expand to 150. The city has 1,468 shelter beds and is adding more in coming months. It plans to have more than 1,900 beds available by the end of the year, Mayor Todd Gloria said.

At a groundbreaking ceremony for the Midway shelter May 31, city and county officials emphasized that the shelter will not solve homelessness but will be one of many approaches to the problem.

The shelter also could provide some relief to an area that has seen a growing number of homeless encampments, including a stretch of Sports Arena Boulevard south of Rosecrans Street just two blocks away.

“The homeless crisis has made the streets of Midway into a place of suffering, but this shelter will help turn Midway into a place of healing, a place for recovery and new beginnings,” said county Supervisor Terra Lawson-Remer, who represents the area.

“The people who will benefit from this shelter are the same people who could otherwise end up in jail,” Lawson-Remer said, noting that the shelter will serve people with mental health issues and drug and alcohol addictions. “The fact that jails are San Diego’s biggest mental health treatment centers shows how broken our system has been. In the past, we were more focused on locking people up than helping people out.”

City Councilwoman Jennifer Campbell, whose District 2 includes the Midway District, said: “We’re working to reduce homelessness in every way we can. We’re taking a variety of approaches, and all are working simultaneously to combat homelessness.”

Last week, Campbell and three other council members held a news conference to show support for a proposed city attorney’s office unit that could increase the number of homeless people with mental illnesses who could be placed into conservatorship and ordered into treatment.

News that a 125-bed homeless shelter would be located in the Midway District was applauded by the current chairman of the neighborhood’s planning group, but not its immediate past chair.

The city teamed with the county last year to open a 50-bed harm-reduction shelter on Sports Arena Boulevard for people with mental illness and addictions, and Gloria is proposing new shelters for senior citizens and families.

County supervisors last week approved a $10 million grant program for cities to open shelters, safe parking lots, secure campgrounds or other options for getting people off the street.

Board of Supervisors Chairman Nathan Fletcher said he hopes cities throughout the county will replicate the new Midway shelter.

Crews work on a new homeless shelter in the Midway District during a groundbreaking ceremony May 31.
(Eduardo Contreras / The San Diego Union-Tribune)

The shelter was announced in March, and construction crews have been preparing the site by installing electrical lines and underground plumbing. On May 31, crews lifted the first tall metal rib into place that will support the large industrial tent that will serve as a shelter.

The tent is owned by the Lucky Duck Foundation, which has funded several local programs to shelter, feed and protect local homeless people and has pushed the city to open more shelters.

The foundation originally pushed the tent for Veterans Village of San Diego, which operated it on Navy property in the Midway District until 2020, when it was moved from the site because the Navy had construction plans there. That same year, the Lucky Duck Foundation offered to lend the tent to the city of Chula Vista, which kept it for more than a year but never put it to use as a shelter.

Last October, Lucky Duck Foundation board member Dan Shea offered the tent to San Diego or any city that would use it as a winter shelter. There were no takers, and the tent remained in storage until county supervisors agreed to use it on their Midway District property.


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