Mayor Todd Gloria before speaking in City Council Chambers in downtown on June 13, 2023.
Mayor Todd Gloria before speaking in City Council Chambers in downtown on June 13, 2023. / Photo by Ariana Drehsler

Two weeks ago, Mayor Todd Gloria was talking to a room full of reporters, making a case for a new ordinance that would crackdown on homeless encampments. He listed several accomplishments – including a really big one.

“And that’s on top of the 70 percent increase in shelter beds that this city has invested in in just the last two years,” Gloria said.

The claim – to have nearly doubled shelter capacity – was a central reason why people should support his new crackdown. I have done everything I can to give homeless people somewhere to go, he was saying. Now, when they don’t listen, we must enforce.

City councilmembers narrowly passed the controversial ordinance later that night.

But Gloria’s claim about increasing shelter capacity is dubious, at best. Before Covid-19 (and Gloria’s tenure) the city funded 1,409 shelter beds, according to the San Diego Housing Commission. Now, it funds roughly 1,805. That’s an increase of 28 percent.

Twenty-eight percent is hardly nothing. It’s also not 70 percent. 

Here’s how Gloria’s team comes up with the 70 percent figure: They start the clock on April 1, 2021, nearly four months after he took office, when shelter beds were at an extreme low, due to the pandemic.

During the pandemic, most of San Diego’s shelters closed to stop the spread of the virus. To provide shelter, former Mayor Kevin Faulconer and city officials converted the San Diego Convention Center into a large shelter, which at times provided a place to stay for more than 1,000 people.

The date of April 1, 2021, is just after the Convention Center’s shelter closed. The city’s major shelters were opening back up, but at limited capacity, due to the pandemic. “Operational” capacity on that day was 1,071, according to Dave Rolland, a spokesman for the mayor.

Operational capacity is different than maximum capacity. Maximum capacity reflects the number of beds funded by the city. Operational capacity reflects the number of beds that are actually up and running on a given day. It can be affected by staffing issues or any number of other logistical challenges.

The problem with starting the clock on April 1 is that shelters were opening up that day with far less capacity than they’d had in the past – and far less capacity than they would have in the future, when the pandemic ended.

Rolland’s logic is difficult to follow.

“Using the time right before the pandemic as a benchmark wouldn’t make sense because the capacity in the existing shelters at that time was not possible in 2021 due to Covid restrictions,” he wrote.

It’s inappropriate, in other words, to compare capacity from before the pandemic to capacity during the pandemic, Rolland argued. But it is appropriate for Gloria’s team to compare shelter capacity during the pandemic to shelter capacity now, when pandemic restrictions have eased.

It’s quite the paradox.

What is clear is that choosing a day in April 2021, when shelter capacity was temporarily reduced due to a natural disaster, and comparing it to today, paints a distorted picture.

Will Huntsberry / Voice of San Diego

Available shelter in San Diego is functionally maxed out most of the time, as Voice of San Diego has previously reported.

Former Republican mayor Faulconer has criticized Gloria’s approach to homelessness, as focusing too much on enforcement and not enough on creating new shelter space. The two have to work together, Faulconer argues.

“What matters is the beds. It’s just inescapable that you have to increase real capacity,” Faulconer said. “You have to treat it with the sense of urgency it deserves.”

Gloria has opened at least eight new shelters during his administration. But the majority of them have relatively little capacity. Some are specifically designated to serve vulnerable populations – such as women who are medically fragile, queer youth and people with mental health disorders – something advocates have long called for.

Rachel Laing, a spokeswoman for the mayor, said Gloria has pursued “a broad spectrum of shelter types” and noted that many people have referred to larger shelters as “warehousing people.”

“There is always a need to make choices with the limited time and resources available,” she wrote in an email.

Shelter capacity is complicated. It can be a game of two steps forward, one step back. A new Gloria-backed shelter, that can serve 42 families, and as many 164 individuals is set to open in Barrio Logan. But a larger step back also looms.

Golden Hall – once a venue for sports, concerts and banquets – currently has the capacity to shelter nearly 500 San Diegans. It’s scheduled to go offline in the coming months.

Will Huntsberry is a senior investigative reporter at Voice of San Diego. He can be reached by email or phone at or 619-693-6249.

Join the Conversation


  1. THANK YOU for this essential reporting! “What is clear is that choosing a day in April 2021, when shelter capacity was temporarily reduced due to a natural disaster, & comparing it to today, paints a distorted picture.” Mayor Todd Gloria​ lies, again.
    6.5K+ unhoused residents of the City of San Diego, 1804 Shelter beds.

  2. As reported the city has 1,804 shelter beds. That does NOT mean that there are 1,804 beds available to house the homeless. There are people already in most of those beds. According to multiple sources (UT, VOSD), on any given day there are about 20 beds available for new shelter placements. According to the City’s own accounting those beds are already spoken for by about 10am.

    The Ban is a Scam. It will not provide even ONE new shelter bed. All it will do is allow the Mayor and City Council to say, “Look we are doing something about homelessness!!”

    1. People don’t want more shelter beds because they don’t help anyone and only make the problems worse. Example: the same men have been on the sidewalk outside golden hall 24/7 doing drugs, playing loud music, and eating free food for literally 2 years. They don’t go to work, they don’t even go to the beach. What are we doing here people? Forget shelter beds, these are not people we want to shelter among the city’s residents. Straight to jail is the only solution, anything less is incredibly unjust and totally unfair to anyone who lives here.

  3. Mayor Gloria is cherry picking data points, but at least he and the progressives who control the City Council are finally focused on the right solution to address homelessness, which is shelter beds. It is not housing first. Housing first is a disaster as a policy response for unsheltered homelessness. It has been proven to be totally impractical and counterproductive because it is so expensive, takes many years/decades to do, and diverts focus and funding from realistic solutions. The realistic solution is shelter beds with supportive services at these locations combined with zero tolerance for illegal encampments and degradation of our public spaces that are used by the other 99.9% of the population. So let’s make the policy response “shelter beds first”, not “housing first”.

    1. The only reason housing first hasn’t work is because it want implemented, just talked about to death.

      1. It doesn’t work because wild animals cannot take care of themselves, they certainly cannot take care of their own rooms. They’ll burn them down or worse. If you don’t know, go outside and stop suggesting this ridiculous idea.

  4. Todd Gloria is a consummate liar and will spin data to fit his agenda. I was driving downtown yesterday afternoon and it looked like it was overtaken by zombies. Drugged out homeless people walking in the streets, walking up to cars stopped at red lights, it made me feel incredibly unsafe. I can’t believe what San Diego has become, what does it take for this city to get a good mayor and tackle this problem.

  5. Not enough money for shelter beds but there seems to be a bottomless bag of money to make really elaborate bike lanes. This mayor has the weirdest priorities.

    1. Mister Gloria despite all the crying by folks who know almost nothing about the nuts and bolts of getting elected will win another term in a landslide. Million-dollar political consultants are called million-dollar political consultants for a reason. They have the heartbeat of voters more succinctly than the doctors at America’s Mayo Clinic. Dan Smiechowski is a candidate for San Diego Mayor.

  6. We been in San Diego for a year and a half. My family and I have spent every weekend feeding the homeless in the downtown neighborhoods and in our area North Park. We spent thousands of dollars trying to help. It’s a lack of resources here. Mayor hasn’t been to one city council meeting since I been here. He’s always on the News this Mayor is a liar. We have enquirer over and over again about grant money to open an nonprofit so we can provide permanent housing for the homeless and resources for them. It’s a big revolving door with him and his city council members. It’s really sad how expensive San Diego is and all these people are living on the streets with no where to go! It’s unacceptable it’s over 3,000 homeless people here! I’m keep pushing for our nonprofit . I’m help make a difference with or without the Mayors office!

    1. At first you take some bread to park and feed the few birds. Next time the amount of birds has doubled until that one loaf of bread is not enough. Eventually you can offer enough bread since the birds have gotten word, free bread. No such thing as a non profit for homeless. Instead non profits become part of the homeless industrial complex, taking much money and do very little. Stop feeding the birds. Eventually they’ll figure out how to fend for themselves either by leaving and finding a cheaper alternative or they continue to put their hands out and have people support their inability to make good choices. Small percentage of homeless have been displaced by loss of employment. Most are mental, drug/alcohol dependent with no desire to help themself. I’m sure your intentions feed your desire to help out but you really are contributing to the cycle.

  7. San Diego has more pompous self-righteous fools than anywhere in America. Dan Smiechowski is a candidate for Mayor.

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