County Plans to Open Homeless Tent Shelter at Health Services Complex in the Midway – Report of Planning Board Meeting

by on May 26, 2022 · 1 comment

in Homelessness, Ocean Beach

By Geoff Page

The regular monthly meeting of the Midway-Pacific Highway Community Planning Board, Wednesday May 18 contained two informative presentations, one by by County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher and the other by District Attorney Summer Stephan.  Both were about the homeless issue.

Homelessness in the Midway

Homelessness is a problem everywhere, but it is especially visible and acute in the Midway area. This has been a topic of discussion at every Midway meeting this writer has covered, and it has been a few years now.

One of the complaints the group has is that the city considers Midway a sort of dumping ground. The city, and now the county, have plopped homeless shelters in the Midway repeatedly without first at least informing the Midway group. This happened with the new shelter where the Pier One store once was, with the city tents, with refugee shelters, and with the new facility Fletcher was there to explain.

Supervisor Nathan Fletcher

The board heard about a new shelter at the County Health Services Complex on Rosecrans two months ago – heard about it – the board was not informed in advance. The members expressed some displeasure with this, which was very probably why Fletcher made his presentation.

The county plans to erect a tent that will hold 150 beds in the parking lot of the facility. The tent was donated by the Lucky Duck Foundation, according to Fletcher. The location was considered ideal because it is within the complex that houses the county psychiatric facility.

By being adjacent to the psychiatric facility, the county will be able to make on-site behavioral and healthcare assessments. Treatment would also be available for those who need it. Considering that the homeless population contains lots of poor souls who could use this kind of help, the idea of siting the facility on the County property seems to make sense.

The ultimate goal of the shelter, according to Fletcher – the ultimate goal of every shelter – is to move people into permanent housing. Fletcher mentioned the conundrum facing everyone, compassion versus safety fears, and how difficult that is to navigate.

Board chair Dike Anyiwo asked Fletcher two questions: where the residents will come from and when it would open? Fletcher’s response to the first question was amorphous. Midway never seems to get a straight answer on the question of where the people will come from to fill the new shelters.

The obvious concern is that Midway has a large enough homeless population and does not need more bodies brought in. The problem is that intense outreach efforts to get people into shelters often fails miserably. Those involved will admit the success rate is low.

In order to get enough folks to agree to go into a shelter and fill the shelter to capacity, they have to bring people in from other areas.

Fletcher did answer the second question saying the plan is to open at the beginning of July.

Hafsa Kaka, representing the mayor’s office, spoke also but there was a lack of substance to what she said. She said things like their “over-arching concern is housing first,” and that “they want to decrease the shelter population.”

Barabara Jimenez, County Operations Officer, spoke a bit and said there would be a big focus on outreach. While the term “outreach” seems simple enough, the type of outreach effort marshaled these days is not simple. It involves a variety of agencies and volunteers talking to those living on the streets, getting to know them, and persuading them to try a shelter where they will have access to other services. It is harder than it sounds.

Lisa Jones, Executive Vice-President, Strategic Initiatives with the San Diego Housing Commission contributed to the presentation. Jones first appeared before the Midway board in the summer of 2021 representing the Commission on the Pier One store conversion into a shelter.

Jones has faithfully attended the Midway monthly meetings ever since updating the group on the shelter. Jones explained that the new County shelter would be a “low barrier” facility. Basically, this means a person can get into this shelter very quickly, almost immediately. All shelters have various procedures a person has to go through to get in, this one will be streamlined.

Oddly enough, none of the Midway group members had any questions after the long presentation, other than the chair.

Summer Stephan, DA

District Attorney Summer Stephan was there to explain her office’s detailed plan to address some of the homeless problem. The plan is titled the “Blueprint for Mental Health Reform – A strategic New Approach Addressing the Intersection of Mental Health, Homelessness, and Criminal Justice in San Diego County.” It is an impressive document.

Stephan said that “Anecdotal information is not good enough” in dealing with this complex issue. Her plan stresses gathering and using accurate data in order to make good policy decisions. Apparently, there has not been accurate data of the right kind gathered.

Stephan described a program her office created to assist in combating abuse crime. She said that program could be applied to the homeless population. The program was used to track crimes to see if the victim or the perpetrator were homeless. She described the data as “astounding.” The results are published here.

The data shows the rate of crime perpetrated by the homeless population to that of the non-homeless population. The rates for all crimes perpetrated by the homeless far exceeded the non-homeless population. One example, aggravated assault by the homeless, was 130 times the assault rate among non-homeless people.

The report also looked at homeless victims. While the comparison numbers were lower, they were still unsettling. The rate of attempted murder victims among the homeless was 27 times the rate of the non-homeless.

The third area of data in the report was about drug overdoses among the homeless. Sadly, as would be expected these rates also exceeded the non-homeless rates by a factor of 118 times.

Stephan said that this data now shows very clearly that there is both a serious humanitarian and a serious public safety issue, the numbers bring it home. Her office then issued a “Three-Point Plan to Address Intersection of Crime and Homelessness” in three pages:

Click to access Homeless%20Data%20and%20Plan%20News%20Release%20FINAL%203-21-22.pdf

Stephan said one benefit of the proposals would be that the system of shelters would be connected so those reaching out to the homeless could find out immediately what is available in which shelters. This is important because the law will not allow law enforcement to make people leave the street unless there is an available bed. This system would also allow for much quicker action getting a person to an available bed.

Anyone interested in Regional Public Safety Email Updates can use the link.

Once again, oddly enough, there were no board questions at the end of this presentation either.

Project – Cannabis Outlet

The one project the Midway group reviewed was a Conditional Use Permit, or CUP, renewal for an existing cannabis outlet at 3500 Estudillo St. The CUP was up for renewal and the only apparent change in the business was removal of some safety requirements the city has relaxed.

The change involved bullet-proof glass in the reception areas of the dispensary that is no longer needed. The area was “controlled” in the original ordinance but after some time in operation, the city is seeing that certain earlier concerns that generated the requirements are no longer valid.

A motion to approve the CUP passed easily.

Again, there were no questions from the board. It almost began to seem like the only one attending the Zoom meeting for the Midway group was the chair.


{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Gravitas May 26, 2022 at 6:49 pm

This is nuts! Midway and Rosecrans are already a mess! Serves no purpose except more infill…..!!!


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