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Daytime Shelter for Homeless Men Opens : Downtown: The city’s first such haven for street people is named after political activist Neil Good, who died in 1989.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The opening Thursday of the long-delayed Neil Good Day Center for the Homeless marked San Diego’s first daytime alternative to the streets for homeless men.

Planning and construction for the 5,000-square-foot center at 17th and K streets had been strung out for more than six years, primarily by difficulties in working out a lease with the state Department of Transportation, which owns the property.

After the approval of special state legislation and haggling with a nearby landowner, the city and Caltrans signed a lease last year to rent the triangular piece of property in the Interstate 5 right of way for $1 a month.

“There was a huge sigh of relief when we finally cut that ribbon after all of these years,” said Rinus Baak, vice chairman of the Regional Task Force on the Homeless and general manager of P & D Technologies.

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The city’s only daytime shelter for the homeless, which will serve about 200 daily, was named after political activist and homeless advocate Neil Good, who died in 1989. Good was a founding member of the task force, which initiated the day center project.

“He probably would have been happy for any sort of shelter that would have helped the homeless. It could have been a tent to just pass out meals to people, and he would have been happy, but this is wonderful,” said Sherryl Hulett, who once was married to Good.

The facility, near several nighttime shelters, will provide a place for homeless men to shower, store personal possessions, launder their clothes, receive mail and messages, watch television and connect with social service programs.

The bulk of the $800,000 for the shelter came from redevelopment money, while the county mental health services, the Port of San Diego and the city combined to provide $240,000.

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Private donations totaling $125,000 will pay for first-year operation costs, which will probably be higher and require further donations, said Frank Landerville, project director for the task force.

The day center is evidence to many that private and public entities can cooperate to meet social service needs.

“I think this is one of the few times when the developers wrote out a check, and there was no quid pro quo,” Mayor Maureen O’Connor said. “They have come to the table and have kept every single one of their commitments they said they would keep.”

But the center, which opens Monday and will be available to men only, will serve only a fraction of the thousands of homeless people in the city.

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“We have more homeless men now than when we started. You just have to look around to see that,” said Terry Riggins, chief operating officer of the United Way in San Diego.

“It’s going to make an impact on the population downtown that are basically not connected with services except for meals each night. It’s not getting rid of homelessness, but it is offering them an alternative to the streets,” Landerville said.

There is no apprehension that the center will go unused.

“This place is going to be packed. There’s really no place else around here that has the facilities this place has,” said Joseph Clingingsmith, 27, who works as maintenance and security for the shelter and, until a few months ago, was homeless.

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“The mission, you go there at night, and they kick you out in the morning, and then you don’t have anywhere to go,” Clingingsmith said.

“It’s better than hanging out on the streets. It will keep a guy out of the drugs and stuff,” said Wilford Joney, a homeless man who spends most of his time collecting cans from the streets.

At night, the day center will be used as a community room and for classroom space by tenants of a low-cost housing project across the street.


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