The city is at a peculiar crossroads when it comes to funding homelessness programs: It’s found new money to keep temporary tent shelters open longer, but its new permanent facility still doesn’t have enough ongoing funding.

This is just one observation I’ve made as I’ve watched many of the city’s decisions about homelessness funding over the last few months. There’s been a lot of money and attention paid to the city’s shelter programs since Mayor Bob Filner took office. Each item has been weighed on its own, but how do the various pieces fit together?

Let’s see how the funding compares from year to year, and to the other shelter programs on the city’s books.

First, there’s the city’s emergency winter tent shelter, sometimes called the downtown tent. It’s currently in Barrio Logan at 16th and Newton avenues, and sleeps about 220 single adults per night. The Alpha Project runs that tent on a contract from the city. Typically the shelter opens a few days before Thanksgiving and closes at the beginning of April.

The tent wasn’t supposed to be open at all this year. The city planned to divert the money it typically spends on the tent — a chunk of its federal Community Development Block Grant and Emergency Solutions Grant allocations — over to operate the Connections Housing interim beds. When it became clear the Connections building wouldn’t be done by the start of last winter, the San Diego Housing Commission stepped in to fill the gap. It raised some of the money from a private donor, United HealthCare, and covered the rest itself.

Filner then pushed to spend city general fund money to keep it open three months longer than usual. He proposes keeping the shelter open year-round next year, at a cost of $1.3 million to the city’s day-to-day budget.

When the downtown tent got its life extended, advocates for the veterans tent pushed for the same treatment. On Tuesday the City Council approved $250,000 from the city’s day-to-day budget to keep that shelter open an additional three months as well. (Neither of these graphs counts the private funding that the tent contractors, Alpha Project and Veterans Village of San Diego, put toward the programs.)

The city doesn’t currently plan to keep the tent for veterans open year-round next year. But if the mayor and City Council decided to, it would cost another $600,000 to $700,000, the city’s independent budget analyst said Tuesday. We’ve reflected that potential gap in gray above.

Here’s the context I really wanted to emphasize about the decisions to keep the tents open longer or year-round. As the city pours more money into temporary structures, the city’s new permanent structure, Connections Housing, is still raising operations funding.

Reminder: The city diverted the money it previously spent on the downtown winter tent to the short-term beds at Connections. That’s where the $442,000 comes from in the current fiscal year, 2013. And Connections is slated to get the city’s allocation again in fiscal 2014. But that doesn’t cover the operations through the end of June 2014, said Amy Gonyeau, chief operating officer for Alpha Project, the agency that runs the short-term beds at Connections.

Gonyeau said Alpha receives about $342,000 of the funding from the city (the rest goes to Connections’ lead agency, People Assisting the Homeless).

Gonyeau said that Alpha needs about another $500,000 on top of the funding listed in the graph above to keep programs and meals going there.

If you’ve watched these debates for very long, you might be wondering about the Neil Good Day Center. This is a drop-in center where homeless people can shower, pick up mail, use computers and get off the streets. Its funding has often been in flux.

In 2012, the city left the day center out of its federal CDBG funding distribution, but the Housing Commission stepped in and funded it. The city didn’t originally fund the day center again for 2013, either. The Housing Commission said it would fund the unexpected winter tent expenditure if the city would find the money for the day center in its day-to-day budget.

For next year, 2014, the day center is slated to receive a chunk of the city’s federal funding, because the Housing Commission succeeded in getting the city to create an automatic allocation for Connections, the veterans tent, the day center and the Cortez Hill Family Shelter, whose funding has been stable.

All told, the city is already spending considerably more money than Jerry Sanders’ administration did in 2012. And it’s unclear whether the city will move to keep the veterans tent open longer for 2014, or pitch in further on the operations of short-term beds at Connections. Here’s the overall picture, based on the city’s federal grants, its own day-to-day budget, the San Diego Housing Commission and some private donations.

All graphics by Amy Krone.

I’m Kelly Bennett, reporter for Voice of San Diego. You can reach me directly at or 619.325.0531.

Voice of San Diego is a nonprofit that depends on you, our readers. Please donate to keep the service strong. Click here to find out more about our supporters and how we operate independently.

Kelly Bennett is a former staff writer for Voice of San Diego.

Leave a comment

We expect all commenters to be constructive and civil. We reserve the right to delete comments without explanation. You are welcome to flag comments to us. You are welcome to submit an opinion piece for our editors to review.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.