SAN DIEGO—The city of San Diego has approved a hotel voucher program to help house homeless families this winter.
The City Council voted Nov. 9 to add $100,000 to the $50,000 it was planning to give to a similar county-led program.
The decision to give the voucher program an additional $100,000 came quickly, in contrast to the process to select a site for a temporary winter shelter for single adults, which took a half dozen meetings over the course of two months.
The voucher program is different from other winter homeless shelter programs in San Diego. It caters to families with disabled or elderly members, as well as children.
A typical voucher is good for seven days, and a family can use the vouchers for up to three weeks. The purpose is to give support during a transition, and only individuals residing in the city of San Diego can use voucher funds from the city.
Local San Diego media reported that choosing the location for emergency winter homeless shelters is a point of contention for the City Council each year. Council members sometimes resist having the shelter located in their own districts, and community groups often come out against potential locations because they fear for the safety of the surrounding community.
However, the city hopes that it won’t have to find a location for an emergency winter shelter anytime soon. Earlier this year the council began plans for constructing a $31 million one-stop service and housing center for the homeless in downtown San Diego, which could be open as early as December 2012.
Christine Schanes is the director and founder of a nonprofit group called Children Helping Poor and Homeless People (CHPHP). She has trained many people, including children, to help the homeless in their communities. CHPHP delivers blankets, food, and other necessities to hungry, poor, and homeless neighbors, and prepares special gift baskets during the holidays.
“Any and all help given to homeless people is a very good thing," said Schanes in response to an e-mail query regarding the city’s recent efforts to help homeless. "The one-stop service and housing center is an admirable concept, which will help over 200 people. However, as long as there are more homeless people than shelter beds or affordable housing, there will be a need for providing temporary winter shelter for unsheltered homeless people.”
According to the San Diego Regional Task Force on the Homeless there were a total of 4,526 homeless people in San Diego in 2009 of whom 2,049 were living on the streets.
The city of San Diego will make the vouchers available as of Dec. 1.