City looking for proposals for downtown homeless shelter program


Seeking alternatives to a tent that has been erected annually in downtown, the City Council voted Tuesday to solicit proposals from social service organizations to take over operation of San Diego’s emergency winter homeless shelter program.

Groups responding to the so-called request for proposals must be able to provide a minimum of 200 beds and provide a range of services to the homeless. About $470,000 has been allocated for the contract.

City staff told the City Council they expect to return with responses in about 30 days.

For the past eight years, the nonprofit group Alpha Project has erected a tent in downtown San Diego that sleeps about 220 people from December to March, at a cost to the city of about $288,000. Alpha Project conducts fundraising to cover some of the additional costs of operating the temporary shelter.

In response to prolonged complaints by downtown residents that the shelter has become a blight on their neighborhood, Councilman Kevin Faulconer has spearheaded an effort to locate it in other parts of the city.

Faulconer applauded Alpha Project, but described the yearly battle over the process of locating the temporary shelter “flawed.”

“One of the things I continue to repeat, and I will, is that homelessness is not just a downtown issue,” Faulconer said. “The unfortunate reality is there are homeless people that need help in all parts of the city.”

Councilman Todd Gloria expressed doubt that other groups will be inclined to respond. He said Alpha project has done a “remarkable job” and the city shouldn’t “tinker” with a program that works.

San Diego is working on establishing a permanent homeless shelter, but city staff to the council it could take at least two years before the facility is operating.

Gloria agreed to docket the issue of a permanent homeless shelter before the City Council’s Land Use and Housing Committee during its meeting April 21.