Homeless service center may close June 30
By Ashley Mackin | Downtown News
At a March 5 press conference, District Three Councilmember Todd Gloria, along with San Diego Housing Commission President and CEO Rick Gentry, urged the public to donate to the Water Man Check-in Center. Named for David “The Water Man” Ross, the Check-in Center is a storage facility for the belongings of homeless people in downtown. Ross got his nickname due to his frequent distribution of water and food to the homeless population.
Gerry Limpic, a former operator of the facility, said at the conference, “The Water Man worked on the streets for many years giving out water and food, [and] this gives us another opportunity to serve the homeless population in San Diego…. We are able, with this facility, to allow people to not only store their belongings, but to look for work and get work.”
Ross opened the Check-in Center in February 2011, with money won through a lawsuit with the city of San Diego regarding an incident where San Diego Police Officers disposed of personal belongings of several homeless people. Since then, donations from the City Council and the San Diego Housing Commission have kept the Check-in Center open, and have provided enough funding to do so until June 30. Ross said it costs approximately $10,000 a month to keep the Check-in Center open.
“The Water Man Check-in Center’s days are currently numbered,” Gloria said at the March 5 conference. “As it stands, they only have funding to stay open through June. That gives us just over three months to raise the money to keep this invaluable facility open.”
Limpic said the Check-in Center currently serves 350 people, with a 450-person waiting list. “What that says to us is that there’s a huge need on the streets of San Diego for more of these centers and we appeal to you to help us stay open,” he said.
Within nine days of opening, the Check-in Center was at capacity, Ross said.
“Of all the issues we face as a City, homelessness is one of the most complicated to address, but it’s one that we’ve made great progress on in the last few years,” Gloria said. The Councilmember referenced several projects that have been implemented in Downtown, including the permanent homeless service and residential center, Connections Housing, slated to open this year, as well as the parking meter donation stations installed across Downtown.
“One of the newer services provided is the one we’re standing in front of today,” Gloria said at the press conference. “This building houses secure bins where homeless individuals can safely [store] their worldly possessions. Because of this Center, homeless individuals can more easily seek employment and keep appointments without bringing their belongings with them and San Diego sidewalks and public right-of-ways are certainly much clearer as a result.”
He added that his office donated $10,000 from the Community Projects, Programs and Services funds to the Check-in Center.
“Now I would encourage San Diegans to think,” Gloria said. “Imagine what it would be like if all the stuff stored in this facility weren’t here any longer. Imagine it back on the streets, back on our sidewalk [and] back on our road strips. Imagine a homeless individual showing up for a job-training program or an interview, lugging around their life’s possessions with them. We can do better than that for our neediest neighbors.”
Gentry, with the San Diego Housing Commission, will administer the facility until the June 30 deadline, and longer if it were to gain more funding. He also said those wanting to donate to the facility may visit the Housing Commission’s website, at sdhc.org or mail a check to their office.
Ross added, “We are very pleased and happy the Housing Commission… is very enthusiastic and supportive of our program. It serves the people… but you have to have the City on your side to keep moving forward.”