SAN DIEGO —
A $503,000 refurbishing project funded by the city and county of San Diego has created 20 additional shelter beds for youth and could end homelessness for about 60 young people each year, the head of the nonprofit running the program said Monday.
The project expands the number of shelter beds at Urban Street Angels’ downtown program to 70, and youths ages 18-24 years old will begin moving in Feb. 23, said the nonprofit’s founder and CEO, Eric Lovett.
The $503,000 to expand the shelter came from the $25 million County-City Behavioral Health Impact Fund created in 2020 as a resolution to a lawsuit between the city of San Diego and the county over how to spend former redevelopment funds after former Gov. Jerry Brown shut down the state Redevelopment Agency in 2011.
The shelter expansion is the seventh project to use the fund, which also has paid for transitional housing units, vehicles for crisis care teams, telehealth connections and other projects.
Lovett said the grant from the Behavioral Health Impact Fund paid for two new bathrooms, the removal of walls and other improvements. The room had been used as offices for Father Joe’s Villages, owner of the Fifth Avenue building.
Father Joe’s had used the building to operate the Toussaint Academy, which provided homes for teenagers and young adults before closing in 2016.
The 50 upstairs beds are in individual rooms while the new first-floor shelter is more like a dorm, with each of the 20 single beds separated by a small wooden wardrobe. Signs above heads of some beds have inspirational slogans such as “You Matter” and “If You Believe in Yourself, Anything is Possible.”
During a Monday morning press conference announcing the upcoming opening of the shelter, Lovett said there are about 1,000 homeless youth outdoors in San Diego on any night.
“They need hope,” he said. “They need a place to go. What this entire space does is it gives them that.”
Clients also receive meals, clothing, mental health help, job training and other services, with an average stay of 60 to 90 days, he said. The program has ended homelessness for 300 youths each year, and now will help 60 more, Lovett added.
Urban Street Angels also operates a 60-unit home for youths in a former La Mesa hotel the nonprofit bought about a year and a half ago, he said.
Stressing the need to help homeless youths get housing and stable lives, Lovett said about half of homeless adults on the street became homeless when they were young.
The San Diego Housing Commission will pay for supportive services for youth at the shelter, including case management, housing and job placement, occupational therapy and linkage to health care.
The Lucky Duck Foundation and Price Charities provided move-in supplies such as bed frames, mattresses and hygiene products at the new shelter addition.
Drew Moser, executive director of the Lucky Duck Foundation, said the philanthropic group was recognizing the city, county and Urban Street Angels with a Shamrock as part of its Shamrocks and Shipwrecks initiative, which gives Shamrocks as praise for positive achievement in homeless solutions and Shipwrecks for inaction.
Moser said the public/private collaboration that included the city, county and a nonprofit in the shelter project should not be a one-off, but should be replicated on a larger scale.
“Twenty beds is great,” he said. “Let’s do 200 beds. Lets do 500 beds.”
County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher, who helped broker the deal that created the Behavioral Health Impact Fund, also attended the Monday press conference.
“We know we have a lot more to do,” he said. “We know the challenges of homelessness are immense and great, but you’ve got to get up every single day and say, ‘What is it we can do today that’s going to give somebody a shot at a better future?’”
In another upcoming project at Urban Street Angels, Lovett said a print shop and a coffee shop will open next to the front entrance in about a month and will employee clients who have been helped by the nonprofit.