Off-the-Street Refuge : Redevelopment Agency OKs Center for Homeless

Times Staff Writer

They are a common sight in downtown San Diego: men whose bedroom is Balboa Park, whose kitchen is a food line, whose home is the streets.

But if a joint effort by the Regional Task Force on the Homeless and the Centre City Development Corp. is successful, these men could eventually have a day center where they could feel safe, shower, wash their clothes, store their goods, receive messages and get counseling.

The groundwork for such an effort was approved Friday when the CCDC board of directors unanimously agreed to help the homeless task force find a site for the center, assist in the building's design and help find financing.

"The only alternative they have now is the streets," said Frank Landerville, director of the homeless task force, after the meeting.

As outlined by Landerville and Rinus Baak, a member of the task force who represents the Chamber of Commerce, the center would provide a place where as many as 1,500 of the city's estimated 3,000 homeless--most of them men--could "just have some contact instead of spending all day in front of Horton Plaza because there is no place to go."

"This center would be geared for people who are adverse to institutional programs," Landerville said. "I expect many would come in two or three times a week, perhaps just to take a shower."

At any one time, more than 200 people would use the facility, which would be monitored and controlled. "We want to stabilize the homeless . . . and in the process prevent conflicts with downtown," Landerville said. "You see these men in front of the library early in the morning with their backpacks but nowhere to go. That's who we are after."

It is expected that such a facility will probably be located in center city east, where various emergency shelters and food programs operate in a warehouse district on the fringe of downtown.

The center would be open only during the day, having regular hours of about 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Landerville said he hopes a site can be selected within four months.

The only other facility comparable to the proposed day center, Landerville said, is Rachel's Women's Center at 753 8th Ave., which is for homeless women. It operates on a smaller scale than the homeless task force has in mind for the men's facility.

The women's center is operated by Catholic Community Services.

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