City Appears to Waver on Plan to Disperse Homeless Services : Downtown: Residents of area near city center fear their neighborhood will remain a dumping ground for the unwanted.
Business owners and residents in the Centre City East area criticized the City Council for seeming to back away from a proposal to disperse homeless agencies among all the city’s neighborhoods.
Members of the Centre City East Assn. said Friday that they fear that council support for the task force plan has waned because of political pressure from residents in areas targeted by the plan.
The eight-point plan, authored by the City Homeless Action Team under the direction of council members John Hartley and Valerie Stallings, urges citizens to see homelessness as a citywide problem, and calls for emergency shelters in areas outside downtown. The plan also recommends expansion of two homeless centers downtown.
The City Council is scheduled Monday to hear public testimony on the proposals detailed in the task force report.
Shortly after the report was submitted to the City Council on Sept. 18, debate flared over proposals to construct two emergency “tent cities” in Rose Canyon and on the outskirts of Balboa Park.
The proposed “urban campsites” are designed to accommodate 50 and 100 people respectively, and would be open for at least six months to determine whether the concept is viable.
In the days after the report was released, Stalling’s office received hundreds of complaints about the plan to erect a tent city in Rose Canyon. After a meeting with worried homeowners, Stallings said publicly that she opposed the tent city site near Balboa Avenue and Morena Boulevard, which is in her district. Contacted Friday, Councilwoman Stallings’ office had no comment about the change in her positions.
Stallings’ decision exemplifies the attitude that has created the saturation problem east of downtown, said Bob Sinclair, chairman of the Centre City East Assn.
Over the years, pressure from resident and interest groups has prevented homeless agencies from being built in most neighborhoods. The result has been the formation of a small zone downtown where an onslaught of homeless agencies has met the least resistance, Sinclair said.
City officials estimate that 90% of the homeless shelter beds are found in the eastern reaches of downtown--the Centre City East area, Logan Heights and Barrio Logan. About 40 agencies providing services related to the homeless are in the area.
“We tell the city the kind of problems we are having with the homeless, and they really don’t understand,” said Barrio Logan resident Frank Pazos, who is a member of Concerned Citizens for Safe Neighborhoods. “They talk about equal distribution” of shelters throughout the city, “but they don’t mean what they say.”
The task force plan also proposes several projects downtown, such as the expansion of the Salvation Army’s center, licensing the Neil Good Day Center for the Homeless to operate at night and renovating a warehouse across the street from the Good Center for use as a shelter.
The task force plan seeks to increase the number of beds available citywide by at least 400 before January. During the winter, about 1,300 emergency beds are available for more than 8,000 homeless in San Diego.
Councilman Bob Filner, whose district includes Centre City East, said Friday that he will oppose additional homeless agencies downtown until other areas begin assuming responsibility.
“It’s always been easiest to dump on low-income areas where they don’t perceive the political pressure to be as great,” Filner said Friday. “Almost every other neighborhood gets ruled out because of political pressure. . . . Even though the council is pushing the idea of geographical dispersion, there’s always the danger that they are going to go back on that position. The people of downtown should be concerned. We have a fight on our hands.”
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