(ANTIMEDIA) San Diego, CA — In an effort to combat a growing homelessness crisis, city officials in San Diego are developing a plan to temporarily house vagrants at a university practice field, local media reported Monday. The proposal comes as the city unveils a new 62-unit apartment complex specifically designed to shelter homeless individuals and families.
“I think all things are on the table,” Councilman Chris Cate said Monday. Cate is a member of the city’s Select Committee on Homelessness, and the plan is the brainchild of the committee’s chairman, Christopher Ward.
“We hope that as we’re able to provide additional housing opportunities, some may be years down the road when those come online, that we’ll be able to scale back some of the need for immediate resources — that’s certainly the intent here,” Ward said, emphasizing that the plan is a short-term measure as the city looks for more permanent solutions.
Homelessness in San Diego has surged in recent years. A January tally put the number of transients in the city at over 5,600, up more than 10 percent from last year. The total number has risen more than 40 percent since 2014.
The chairman’s idea is for the city to construct temporary housing on the practice field of Qualcomm Stadium, where the San Diego Chargers played until 2016, and the San Diego State Aztecs play. Housing would also be built at Golden Hall, a 3,200-seat indoor arena. The committee agreed to consider Ward’s proposal and expects to have a concrete plan outlined by September. The stadium’s fate has been subject of heated public debate following the Chargers’ decision to move to Los Angeles following the 2016 NFL season, leaving it relatively vacant.
Ward contends that a major obstacle for homeless people to overcome in trying to improve their living conditions is that they have no way to secure their property. Ward says temporary housing would provide them with a way to store items while they’re away:
“One of the big barriers people have from getting off the streets today is that their stuff is on the streets. So trying to go interview with the Housing Council or seek health assistance or do a job interview, they don’t want to leave their stuff. We don’t have enough storage and that’s something the city can provide.”
The plan was announced on the same day city officials celebrated the grand opening of the Cypress, a six-story permanent housing complex for the homeless that offers private kitchens and bathrooms, communal spaces, and access to social services and substance abuse programs.