San Diego homeless center: Humane model for downtown Phoenix? FWD

Tom Boland (
Sat, 15 May 1999 09:37:59 -0700 (PDT)

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I invite your comments on the "homeless center model" cited below for
solving developers' problems with homeless people in downtown business
FWD  Arizona Republic - Arizona Central News - April 26, 1999<


     By Pat Kossan - The Arizona Republic

Members of the Phoenix Community Alliance were looking for a humane
solution to the problem posed by homeless people who stood in the way of
their latest redevelopment project.

As part of their research, some members visited San Diego's St. Vincent de
Paul Village.

The village is run by a private, non-profit organization, no longer
connected with the St. Vincent de Paul Society, the familiar charitable arm
of the Catholic Church, spokesman Brian Hom said.

Hom describes the village as a one-stop campus of homeless services with
eight separate centers covering two square city blocks. Alliance members
came back convinced a smaller version could work in Phoenix.

"It's one example of homeless services coexisting with development," said
Martin Shultz, the Arizona Public Service Co. lobbyist heading up the
project. "Instead of forcing separation, you can develop a campus in a way
that's consistent and compatible."

The San Diego center, started in 1987, has shelters for singles, families
and teens; three homes and a 47-unit apartment complex of permanent
affordable housing; medical center; counseling services; job training and a
dining hall open for three meals a day to all 900 of its residents, and to
the public for lunch, Hom said.

The campus has won awards for its architecture.

Now it wants to expand, but the center is meeting resistance from
businesses and the sparse neighbors in what Hom calls the dilapidated
community surrounding it. It's also meeting resistance from people
beginning to redevelop the area, Hom said

Their complaint: too much loitering.

"There are a lot of people hanging around," Hom said. The homeless hang
around not to be close to services, Hom said, but because it's one of the
last downtown areas where there's still "a lot of squatting ground and lots
of room to flop."

These squatters are made up of people unable to find a bed in a city where
there are 5,000 to 7,000 homeless people but only 2,400 emergency beds.
Others are made up of what Hom calls "'the helpless hopeless" who can't
abide by the campus' strict no-drink, no-drugs policy.

"They would rather sleep on the street and drink than go indoors," Hom said.

Redevelopment of the area is inevitable, he said, and as it happens the
street people will lose their "comfort zone," driving them into the campus
or into some other neighborhood or city.

Shultz said he understands that the campus proposed for Phoenix will not
completely sweep away the loitering problem, but he expects those people
unwilling to seek help inside the campus "would be handled by additional
enforcement" from Phoenix police.

The campus would give homeless people an option, Shultz said, whose object
is not to move homeless out, but move them in.

But Phoenix police Sgt. Wiley Chlarson suspects expectations for the new
campus may be too high.

"We can't keep people in there," said Chlarson, who has worked on and off
in the area since 1985. "We can't keep people anywhere, unless they're
under arrest. There will always be a group of people who will not stay in
the shelter or who are eighty-sixed from the shelter because of the way
they behaved."

It's a familiar debate for Hom and the people who run the San Diego campus.
Despite its shortcomings, the campus concept is a trend in homeless care
and St. Vincent de Paul Village has been asked to develop similar campuses
in Las Vegas and Indio, Calif.

The one-stop campus provides efficient, clean, respectful services to
people who want them, Hom said.

"People donate to us with the expectation we're going to end homelessness,"
he said. "We can't."


**In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. section 107, this material is
distributed without charge or profit to those who have expressed a prior
interest in receiving this type of information for non-profit research and
educational purposes only.**

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