Friday, December 20, 2013

The Tent


In the middle of this picture you can see a tent.   It's a large tent and it is "home" to some 240 or so homeless people.  It has been the de facto winter shelter facility in San Diego for some time.   Yes, winter in San Diego can get cold enough to require shelter.  Low temperatures in San Diego can dip into the 30s during the winter months.  It has been the only true "shelter" for the homeless in San Diego, given that all the other homeless shelters here are no longer traditional shelters but rehabilitation programs.   Well, that's all about to change.

We were told last night that the "Tent" would no longer be just a shelter, but another rehab program.   The homeless staying in the tent have been given a choice.   They can either connect with a case manager who will try to help them move on from the tent, and for that be allowed to stay at the tent for a total of 90 days, OR they can choose to not have a case manager and be allowed to stay at the tent for a total of 60 days.   Either way, the homeless will no longer be able to ride out the entire winter in the shelter.

There is good and bad with this change.  Opportunities may arise that will help some of the homeless get off the streets for good.  But, what happens once a homeless person has completed their 90 day stay at the Tent and they still are not ready to leave? What if there is no other place for them to go?   For the mostly unencumbered homeless person, one without severe mental health or addiction issues, it can still that them 3 or 4 months to get their act together enough so to escape homelessness.  But for every other homeless person, the transition out of homelessness usually takes longer.

Of those who have completed their 90 days, but are not yet ready to move - where will they go?  Will they be thrown out onto the streets regardless?   What about those who are ready to move on beyond the Tent at the end of their 90 days?  Will there be a place off the streets they can move to?  one that they can afford?   Or will they just be thrown back onto the streets?  The big question is - Does the city of San Diego have 240 affordable/low income housing units available for the homeless who are  currently staying at the "Tent"?   I'm guessing, "No".