Year-round housing and service facility will open by end of 2012 in vacant downtown building
By Anthony King | Downtown News
City leaders gathered on the former site of San Diego’s World Trade Center at 1250 Sixth Ave. to launch construction on the city’s first year-round, 223-bed homeless facility in downtown San Diego. The Connections Housing development will be a full-service residential community home to help homeless individuals and families transfer to permanent housing.
In attendance at the groundbreaking were Mayor Jerry Sanders; City Council President Pro Tem Kevin Faulconer; District 3 Councilmember Todd Gloria; Centre City Development Corporation Chair Kim John Kilkenny; and San Diego Housing Commission President and CEO Richard Gentry, among others.
“Connections Housing will be a civic project of great benefit for the people who will be served there, and for the City of San Diego,” Gloria said in a press release. “By providing supportive services on site as well as house, Connections [Housing] will help move people from the streets to self-sufficiency.”
Scheduled to open by December 2012, the Connections Housing facility will include 73 permanent housing units, 16 special needs single-room occupancy units, 134 interim housing beds, a social service center and a community health clinic.
Medical services will be offered at the facility through a partnership with Family Health Centers of San Diego, a nonprofit community health organization whose mission is to provide affordable healthcare and support services. The organization focuses on serving the uninsured and low-income population and will close its current downtown location at 1145 Broadway to move permanently into the Connections Housing building.
Operated by People Assisting the Homeless (PATH), which runs similar facilities in Southern California, the funding for Connections Housing comes from the City of San Diego through the Centre City Development Corporation, the San Diego Housing Commission and a Community Development Block Grant.
Additionally, federal low-income housing tax credits and funds from the nonprofit organization, Corporation for Supportive Housing, round out the primary funders for the project. The estimated renovation cost is $34 million.
In his State of the City address on Jan. 11, Mayor Sanders said the housing project was a step in the right direction for addressing homelessness year round. “This year, we look forward to opening the Connections Housing Center, a permanent shelter downtown where the homeless can find supportive housing and treatment as they battle drug addiction and mental health issues,” he said.
Construction on the 86-year-old vacant World Trade Center building began in November 2011, one year after the City Council voted unanimously in October 2010 to begin talks to convert the building into what will now be Connections Housing. The permanent building is intended to replace the city’s temporary winter shelter tents, however Gloria said the opening of the permanent facility is one step to helping individuals and families affected by homelessness.
“The start of construction on Connections is the start of a new day for our homeless neighbors in San Diego, but is not a single solution.” Gloria said. “We must persist with our efforts with the Emergency Winter Shelter program, services like the Neil Good Day Center, and provide more affordable housing if we are to continue our progress on this challenging issue.”
The Neil Good Day Center is a homeless services facility located at 299 17th St. offering case management, medical services and veteran services, among others, to homeless individuals in downtown during the day only. Administered by the city, the center is currently operated by the Alpha Project and will continue to offer services through 2012.
“Our comprehensive approach to homelessness is a model for other cities grappling with this problem,” Sanders said at the address, “and should make 2012 the first year in memory when San Diego won’t need to open a winter homeless shelter because beds and services will already be waiting.”