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County grants $5 million more for homeless shelters in four cities

A second and final round of grants San Diego County is awarding to local cities will help expand or continue shelter programs in San Diego, Carlsbad, Chula Vista and Escondido.

With the number of homeless people living without shelter increasing throughout the county, the Board of Supervisors in May offered $10 million for cities to fund shelters, safe camping sites, cabins or other programs that would help get people off the street.

The grants announced Thursday will provide $2 million to expand Catholic Charities’ La Posada de Guadalupe shelter in Carlsbad, $1.8 million for pallet houses in Chula Vista, $736,000 for a family shelter in Escondido, $393,000 for a 34-room senior shelter in San Diego and $350,000 for a 42-bed family shelter, also in San Diego.

“This action was designed to spur momentum and really drive some immediate action,” county Board of Supervisors Chairman Nathan Fletcher said Thursday. “There’s a real immediate need on the street right now. I strongly believe that more safe parking, more safe camping and more shelters are a critical piece of getting people off the street and transitioning them into permanent housing. And we need more of it and we need it quickly.”

The funding program was launched with hope that cities throughout the county would apply for money to create new shelter programs. Fletcher said in September that the response was disappointing because only three cities applied, leaving about $5 million on the table. Oceanside received $3.3 million to help fund a 50-bed shelter, Vista received $65,000 for a safe parking lot and San Diego received $1 million for a safe parking lot.

Of the five projects funded in the latest round, four were for shelters that already exist or are planned. Fletcher said the effort still was a success because the funds would pay for significant increases that are needed throughout the county.

“From North County to South County, you can see progress being made,” he said.

Catholic Charities CEO Appaswamy “Vino” Pajanor agreed that the funding will make a significant impact on the Carlsbad shelter, which will expand its services and add up to 50 beds at La Posada de Guadalupe, which now has 100.

“We have been looking at expanding La Posada for the past couple of years,” he said. “When the county opportunity came about the city said, ‘You’ve been talking about this for a long time. This is a great idea.’”

The shelter began as a cluster of buildings to provide housing for farm workers in 1992, and in 2013 Catholic Charities opened La Posada de Guadalupe as permanent buildings with 50 beds for farm workers and 50 for adult homeless men.

Pajanor said the money will fund a feasibility study on a planned second story that will provide beds for women and mothers with young children. The money will help with fundraising efforts for the project, which also will convert the emergency shelter into a navigation center with resources to help homeless people become self-sufficient and find housing, he said.

In Chula Vista, the city plans to open a shelter composed of 66 pallet homes, also known as sleeping cabins, next month.

City Homeless Solutions Manager Angelica Davis said the $1.8 million from the county will pay for cost overruns and for an anticipated second phase to the project.

“We’d love to maybe double it or maybe not even do pallet housing, but permanent supportive housing,” she said. “The sky’s the limit.”

In the city of San Diego, the county’s $393,000 grant will fund improvements to a 34-room senior shelter in a Pacific Highway hotel the city began leasing in September. Mayor Todd Gloria’s Director of Communications Dave Rolland said improvements will include new floors in all rooms, new laundry rooms, washers and dryers, and paint for all units and offices.

An additional $350,000 will fund a planned 42-room non-congregate shelter that will serve up to 200 families a year. The location of the project has not been announced, but it is expected early next year, he said.

In Escondido, a $736,000 grant will fund Interfaith Community Services’ plan to convert the Hawthorne Veteran and Family Resource Center into a family shelter. Interfath CEO Greg Anglea said the money will add more beds to the 32-bed facility and fund capital improvements.

“Unfortunately, we’re seeing a significant increase in families who have lost their housing,” he said.

The county funds will pay to reconfigure the small rooms to accommodate larger families, expand the kitchen, add a playground and an outdoor recreation area.

Anglea said because government funding for shelters is decreasing, Interfaith projects to lose $800,000 out of its $26 million budget.

“We need this kind of support in order to do this type of work,” he said about the county grant.

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