La Jolla woman working for homeless center

A La Jolla woman is drawing closer to her goal of creating a regional, full-service center to aid and rehabilitate the homeless.

“I’ve picked out a three-acre lot on the outskirts of Pacific Beach that I want to turn into a homeless shelter for La Jolla and the other coastal communities,” said Tresha Souza, a Catholic parishioner of Mary Star of the Sea Catholic Church. “It’s a huge step, serving the needy and the poor — but that’s what we’re here for. What we’re trying to do is expand some of our programs, not just feeding people, but be able to get them on their feet.”

Souza envisions a full-service, nonprofit facility offering showers, job help, mailboxes, medical care, laundry facilities and food and shelter for the needy.

Souza started the Interfaith Community Supper a couple of years ago to distribute free meals cooked in the church’s kitchen at 7669 Girard Ave to the homeless one night every other week. She has recently extended that same service to St. Brigid Catholic Church at 4735 Cass St. in Pacific Beach.

Though she’s picked out a suitable site for a future homeless center, Souza has significant hurdles to clear before any such facility becomes a reality.

“There are two big obstacles: getting a conditional use permit (from the city of San Diego) and raising the money, writing grants, getting private donations, etc.,” she said, noting she’s working with Second District Supervisor Kevin Faulconer’s office to lay the groundwork needed for a land-use zoning change.

Souza’s efforts to find a way of providing basic services to the homeless were applauded by Dr. Ellen Beck, a clinical professor in family medicine at the UCSD School of Medicine who’s been consulting with Souza and sharing her experience starting free clinics in homeless communities.

“The most important thing is to start with shelter and some core case management and social services, then help link them up with job training, alcohol rehabilitation or whatever it is they need to take the next step in their lives,” Beck said. “It’s very hard to do that if they’re still out on the street.”

Beck described the need for medical and other facilities to take care of the homeless as “vast. “

“There isn’t an effective year-round shelter in all of San Diego,” Beck noted. “The winter shelter just closed. We as a city need to move toward a greater sense of social responsibility.”

Meanwhile, the situation with homelessness on the streets of La Jolla is worsening, said at least one local merchant, Daisy Fitzgerald of Ark Antiques at 7643 Girard Ave.

“I’ve noticed new people I’ve never noticed before,” she said. “There’s a woman who has a fake baby all wrapped in pink who was sleeping in our doorway and it turned out to be a Teddy bear. There is another man who walks down the street with his hands held out like he’s looking to heaven. What we all have to do is uniformly follow up on these people.”

Wes Mangum of the San Diego Homeless Outreach Team said police can help local merchants with homeless problems, but they need to first get letters of agency — or authorization — that allow police to access private property.

Go to

or the

city of San Diego’s Web site

where letters of agency can be downloaded, printed, then signed and either hand-delivered or faxed to the appropriate division station.

“Those letters need to be posted on signs that we can see,” Mangum said. “They’re good for six months then they need to be renewed.”