‘Trailers? We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Trailers!’ — San Diego’s Own Trailergate

by on February 6, 2023 · 4 comments

in Homelessness, San Diego

The Lost Trailers. Found by the U-T along Morena Blvd.

Apparently, for several years, the City of San Diego didn’t need no stinkin’ trailers. The City sat on 20 trailers provided by the State for short- and medium-term housing for people experiencing homelessness. For three years – and is just now readying 13 for a Rose Canyon site along Morena Boulevard that will serve households sometime later this year.

Some background: during the height of the pandemic, the California Department of Social Services created a critical program, Project Roomkey,that sought to provide housing to unhoused people outside the network of group shelters where infections were rampant.

One element of Project Roomkey allowed state officials to offer cities and counties more than 1,500 trailers that could serve as short- and medium-term housing for people without any shelter. The program was “designed to quickly provide dedicated resources to ensure Project Roomkey units remain online through the continued public-health emergency and that homelessness is non-recurring,” those officials said.

So, ol’ San Diego County, the region’s public health provider was in charge of administering local Project Roomkey efforts, asked state officials for only a few dozen trailers. Why so little? Anyhow, the city of San Diego collected nearly half of those — 20 — but has kept them all in storage for years. Other counties and cities asked for many more trailers – and got most of them.

For example, Chula Vista collected 10 of the trailers offered by state officials at the same time San Diego took possession of 20. Within months, Chula Vista donated all 10 to a local charity, which has been using them to help needy people ever since.

The county initially used its trailers to support the public-health response to COVID-19, such as for testing and later for vaccinations. By last year, they found alternate ways to deploy them. Two went to the local Cal Fire agency for disaster-response efforts, two were sent to Mariposa County for fire relief, and one has been sent to the county emergency operations center for staff accommodations, and one is not currently deployed.

As Jeff McDonald at the U-T reported last week:

The trailers, which are generally 8 feet wide by 25 or 30 feet long, were purchased by the state with federal COVID-19 relief money. They are standard recreational vehicles that are towed behind cars and trucks, not the so-called fifth-wheels that attach to the beds of pickup trucks.

The trailers were first made available by the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services to 12 larger California cities — including San Diego — through county governments, before then being offered to smaller cities and counties.

While some local agencies requested and eventually received 100 units or more, San Diego County applied for and received only 44, according to state data. The county said it received 43. Thirty of those were delivered to the cities of San Diego and Chula Vista. The county kept six, while La Mesa, Lemon Grove and Santee each got two and Imperial Beach one, a county official said.

Los Angeles County requested and received more than 650. Monterey and Santa Clara counties each requested more than 100, although they accepted 15 and 12, respectively. Alameda and San Francisco counties applied for and got 91 trailers each. Even tiny Imperial County sought 80 and was delivered all but one of those. In all, 20 counties requested a total of 1,557 trailers, and state officials delivered 1,244 to 16 counties.

What happened? Why the delay — especially when incremental steps are taken almost weekly by government and highly touted in solving the homeless issue? David Rolland, spokesperson for Mayor Todd Gloria blamed former Mayor Kevin Faulconer, according to McDonald, “for the delays in putting the trailers into service. He also said it was difficult to find appropriate locations and make sure they had access to water, sewer and electricity.

“When Mayor Gloria was made aware that the previous administration had stowed away 20 trailers received at the heights of the pandemic, he directed his newly formed Homelessness Strategies and Solutions department to explore site to locate and use the trailers to serve families experiencing homelessness.”

“The task was challenging, requiring infrastructure upgrades such as power, sewer, water and lighting, in addition to procuring a service provider for case management.”

Rolland declined to comment to McDonald on why San Diego had sought only 20 trailers under the emergency-housing program. “This occurred during the previous administration. We refer you to them.”

McDonald focuses in:

The Gloria administration also would not say when specifically the mayor learned that 20 trailers designated for emergency housing were instead in storage.

But as early as March 2021, just three months into his first term, Gloria cited the Project Roomkey program in a news release and said he was committed to leveraging its resources as effectively as possible.

“Identifying able providers of necessary support services and intensive case-management across the county has been the No. 1 barrier for making full use of shelter programs like California’s Project Roomkey,” Gloria said then. “We must turn over every stone, and we must use every tool in the box to find quality service providers who will protect public health and save lives,” he said.

San Diego’s Trailergate has peeved local homeless advocates. Michael McConnell, a well-known activist told McDonald he was not surprised that 20 trailers donated to the city have been languishing in storage for nearly three years. “It’s just another example of the city’s inability to quickly deploy solutions to this crisis. This is why we are not going to make progress on solving homelessness in San Diego. For whatever reason, they are just bogged down by decision-making and inaction. We hear the press conferences over and over where they pat themselves on the back, but little gets done.”

Amie Zamudio, another community volunteer was frustrated to learn that Project Roomkey trailers had yet to be employed. “I have a lot of veterans who would have welcomed the opportunity to live in one of those trailers. To me, this is complete incompetence. We need every possible option for these people.”

“Complete incompetence,” while patting themselves on the back.






{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Mateo February 7, 2023 at 8:42 am

The time has come. EVICT TODD GLORIA


Paul Webb February 7, 2023 at 9:48 am

This is one more example showing that the current administration really has no intent to do anything to alleviate the homeless problem. When offered a rational solution (trailers), they essentially don’t take advantage of the offer and fail to use the pitiful few that were asked for and received. Yes, there were issues with hook-ups but, c’mon, man (I mean you Mr. Gloria), we can do better. Yes, it started with Kev, but you’ve had two years to do something with the trailers.

It also reinforces my belief that the whole “we have to build more housing to end the homeless problem” is just window dressing to cover up the fact that the housing we are building is not going to help the homeless in any meaningful way.


Frank J February 9, 2023 at 9:01 am

For a time ‘America’s Finest City’ was often quoted. Now we often see ‘city’s inability…’


kh February 10, 2023 at 2:15 pm

It’s a bit pathetic to see them so quick to blame Falconer’s administration. Imagine taking over a half-assed work project from a departing employee and then blaming them in front of your customer for all the issues. I assure you your customer will not be impressed. This is amatuer-level governing.

Let’s find a place to get these trailers setup and get a few more people sheltered. We need more of this. It’s almost criminal to be spending homeless dollars on new construction. A new build for 12 people would probably fund a trailer park for 50 people.


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