SAN DIEGO — The number of homeless people in downtown San Diego has doubled over the past year, according to a recent census by the Downtown San Diego Partnership.
The local nonprofit is now pushing for the creation of a "Safe Village" pilot program for San Diego's homeless, providing a non-congregate alternative to traditional shelters. It's a concept that has been adopted in other major cities, but not without controversy.
"More housing, more affordable housing is always going to be our goal," said Sarah Brothers, vice president of marketing with Downtown San Diego Partnership. "But in the meantime, we need to keep all of our options open."
While there are many variations, a "safe village" would essentially place pre-fabricated pallet or tiny homes on a campsite, parking lot or other vacant land. It often includes on-site amenities like toilets and showers, as well as provides on-site health care, counseling, and other resources to help those staying there transition to more permanent housing.
"We are going to look at all of those options and see what makes the most sense for our community, what makes the most sense for the needs of our unsheltered population," Brothers told CBS 8. "But the goal is to provide a non-congregate 'village' place where people can access transitional services and basic human needs."
The City of Chula Vista recently approved a "safe village" for the homeless at will provide 66 tiny home units offering 138 beds later this year.
Last month, the City of Vista agreed to search for a campground or parking lot to house the homeless.
Other major cities, like Seattle and San Francisco, have already created safe villages.
Los Angeles has the country's largest, offering space for 225 people in the Highland Park neighborhood near the 110 Freeway.
"You are safe, you don't have to look for a bathroom, you have a shower, they have security," said Roya Schwartz, who has been living in that safe village community for the last few months. "They take care of you."
However, these villages are not always welcomed by others living nearby. Last May, dozens of residents in the San Gabriel Valley protested 50 new tiny homes in their area.
As for a safe village in San Diego, Mayor Todd Gloria said in a statement to CBS 8:
"The homelessness crisis in San Diego and across California requires that we consider all options, but also that we be realistic in our expectations. There are a number of resource concerns related to large-scale campsites, chief among them what sites are available for such operations. It's our hope that the proposal the Downtown Partnership says they are putting together includes large, flat areas of land that could accommodate and are available for such a use."
The Downtown San Diego Partnership said that they are still in the preliminary stages of creating their proposal.
"Any location that would be a good fit, we'll be considering, but we don't have anything shortlisted at this point," Brothers added.
Funding for the project is also still being worked out.
The Downtown San Diego Partnership is now working with an advisory group, Lived Experience Advisers, to come up with a formal proposal to present to the city and county.
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