St. Vincent De Paul Joan Kroc Center in the outskirts of downtown on July 10, 2023.
St. Vincent de Paul Village in East Village on July 10, 2023. / Photo by Ariana Drehsler

 Father Joe’s Villages has long been a fixture in San Diego. But now, as homelessness spikes, the city’s largest provider of homeless services finds itself at odds with the city government that helps fund many of its programs.  

The city’s housing agency has issued demands and expressed concerns about everything from maintenance issues at Father Joe’s Golden Hall shelter to significant disparities with the nonprofit’s service suspension list.   

The San Diego Housing Commission also found fault with a disproportionate number of client complaints at its Golden Hall shelter and some administrative issues.

Last month, the commission gave another provider a contract to manage a motel-based family shelter after negotiating with Father Joe’s for weeks. Father Joe’s had demanded more money than the commission budgeted.  

And early this year, Father Joe’s and the commission abruptly announced temporary cuts to hours and services at Father Joe’s bustling Neil Good Day Center after the nonprofit concluded it couldn’t sustain full operations the rest of the fiscal year with city-pledged funds. Around the time of the announcement about the center where many unsheltered people do laundry and get mail, the commission demanded that Father Joe’s make swift changes on four other contracts.  

Executives at Father Joe’s and the commission say they are committed to working together to address those challenges. 

Nearly four decades ago, the nonprofit’s namesake Father Joe Carroll broke ground on what would become the St. Vincent de Paul campus in East Village. The nonprofit and its mission have since received local and national accolades, including from multiple presidential administrations.  

As homelessness has skyrocketed in recent years, the city has increasingly relied on Father Joe’s to help address the crisis. The Housing Commission inked contracts with Father Joe’s for about half of the city’s roughly 1,800 shelter beds plus an array of other services. The city’s latest budget included $13.4 million for Father Joe’s shelter contracts alone.   

The commission in February ordered Father Joe’s to fix problems with its Golden Hall, Paul Mirabile Center and Bishop Maher Center shelter contracts and another for a permanent supportive housing program for people with disabilities. The programs serve single men and women plus young adults and families.  

Bunk beds in the family shelter area of Golden Hall are small havens of colorful children’s toys, backpacks and clothing. Family units are kept together, a rare situation for local shelters; where both parents are able to stay together with the children, rather than having only the mother stay with children and the father staying in a men’s dorm. / Photo by Peggy Peattie for Voice of San Diego
Bunk beds in the family shelter at Golden Hall are adorned by colorful children’s toys, backpacks and clothing. / File photo by Peggy Peattie for Voice of San Diego

In the notices, Housing Commission senior vice president Debra Fischle-Faulk urged “immediate corrective action.”  

A failure to make changes, Fischle-Faulk wrote, could lead to a potential termination of contracts.  

Months later, the commission continues to closely monitor the nonprofit. Father Joe’s and Housing Commission executives say they’re continuing to try to work through some of the challenges the commission laid out in February. 

Among the issues flagged by the commission:  

  • Facility problems: Air conditioners at Golden Hall were leaking water on shelter residents’ beds. There were frequent restroom and shower closures and the nonprofit continually used sandbags to keep Golden Hall shower trailer doors open, leading sand to spread inside the showers even after a city and county safety team flagged the problem. 
  • Client complaints: A disproportionate number of client grievances at the Golden Hall shelter even after accounting for the program’s size. Specifics weren’t included in the initial notice, but the commission has since shared complaints about issues including meal service, pests and shelter suspensions.  
  • Suspension disparities: A service suspension rate “significantly higher than the rate of suspension at other similar shelters” and an overrepresentation of Black San Diegans on its suspension list, which barred clients from returning for as little as 24 hours or a longer period that could be permanent. At the time, Fischle-Faulk wrote, 28 percent of city shelter residents were Black, but Blacks made up 39 percent of Father Joe’s suspension list.   
  • Reimbursement request issues: Frequently late submissions of requests for reimbursement without proper documentation.  
  • Contract delays: Failures to swiftly execute city contracts.   

The commission also separately issued a notice of performance concerns tied to Father Joe’s supportive housing program including a failure to pass 49 percent of initial annual housing inspections last fiscal year and an overbilling issue that affected the housing agency and some tenants.  

Father Joe’s responded by taking steps including hiring a manager to oversee Golden Hall maintenance issues. In July, the nonprofit said it had also reimbursed supportive housing residents overbilled for rent. Father Joe’s said it has also hired a new property management company for its housing projects in part to help address issues raised by the commission. 

Father Joe’s has also worked with the commission and an outside consultant the city agency hired to rework the nonprofit’s suspension policies.   

Yet the commission and the nonprofit continue to have tense exchanges about suspension rate disparities, client grievances, administrative issues and more.   

Father Joe’s has argued that the commission’s reimbursement process has fueled the challenges laid out by the housing agency. 

The city hired consultant Equity in Action to help address disparities with Father Joe’s suspension list and it recently issued recommendations. The nonprofit and the commission have tangled over some of those recommendations. 

Father Joe’s general counsel Ann Wieczorek also argued that the commission initially failed to share details on Golden Hall shelter clients’ grievances – and then, after it did, argued in a July 11 letter that the issues “do not rise to the level of a serious incident that requires continuous monitoring from SDHC.”  

The grievances detailed by the commission included complaints from groups of Golden Hall clients about undercooked chicken, those who arrived late for meals being denied food and frequent sightings of cockroaches and rat feces at the shelter.  

Wieczorek wrote that Father Joe’s had addressed the meal service concerns and said the agency had multiple reports stating there weren’t any pests found at Golden Hall.    

Commission officials were taken aback by Wieczorek’s letter. 

In a July 19 response, Housing Commission Vice President Casey Snell and Fischle-Faulk wrote that “SDHC cannot agree with many of the assertions” in Father Joe’s responses. They also said Father Joe’s letters clashed with ongoing discussions with the nonprofit’s executives and other managers.  

“SDHC is committed to improving contract performance and reducing disparities and access challenges in the programs FJV administers on behalf of the city,” Snell and Fischle-Faulk wrote. “We look forward to the same level of collaborative response and improvement in communication between FJV operational and executive leadership so that progress can continue toward resolving the identified performance challenges.”  

Father Joe’s fired back with a July 21 letter arguing that it was simply offering suggestions.   

“Collaboration requires the ability to have open dialogue and the sharing of ideas,” Wieczorek wrote. “We believe the people of San Diego and those experiencing homelessness deserve as much.”  


A former Father Joe’s supervisor told Voice of San Diego that the challenges the Housing Commission is ordering the nonprofit to address are longstanding.   

Rose Harris, who worked at the nonprofit from 2019 to 2021, said Father Joe’s staffers often gave up on addressing facility issues, including pest and restroom closures, due to lack of staffing to address them and made last-minute decisions that impacted clients’ meal and restroom access.  

Harris said shelter workers also often escalated situations rather than calm shelter residents who became frustrated or broke a rule. Homeless and formerly homeless clients and advocates have also told Voice they have seen Father Joe’s staff treat clients in ways that intensified conflicts, including dismissing concerns and threatening punishment.  

In one instance, Harris said a shelter staffer ordered a man in his 60s with a heart condition to do push-ups after the resident missed a nightly bed check at the Golden Hall shelter. He ended up in the hospital the next day. Father Joe’s policies call for shelter residents to leave if they miss bed checks three nights in a row.   

Harris said when the man returned from the hospital a couple days later, Father Joe’s staff had filled his bed. Harris said she reported the incident to her supervisor and later to the Housing Commission.  

A Housing Commission staffer later followed up with the Father Joe’s shelter resident and recounted his conversation with the man in a November 2021 email to Lisa Jones, an executive vice president at the housing agency.  

“Client’s grievance revolved around a residential staff and being forced to do push-ups in order to keep his bed due to nights out of the shelter and it then resulting in him needing medical care the following day,” Housing Commission senior program analyst Victor Hernandez wrote in an email obtained by Voice.   

Jones told Voice that the Housing Commission contacted Father Joe’s leaders after it confirmed the allegations.  

“We expressed our deep concerns about the actions of the particular staff member, asked them to conduct their own investigation and to take appropriate disciplinary action,” Jones said. “They confirmed this was not an acceptable action, that Father Joe’s would not support this behavior, and then we asked them to follow up and advise us of actions taken.”  

Jones said the Housing Commission also told Father Joe’s it should ensure all staff were “trained appropriately in client interaction.”  

Jones said Father Joe’s and a Housing Commission attorney told housing agency officials the nonprofit couldn’t share disciplinary action taken due to privacy protections.   

Jones said the Housing Commission hasn’t received complaints about such egregious violations at Golden Hall since then.  

In a statement, Father Joe’s said it couldn’t comment on the specifics of Harris’ claims about staff at the Golden Hall shelter. 

“Any allegations regarding employee conduct towards our clients are taken with utmost gravity. All staff, including supervisors, have a responsibility to maintain the health and safety of our clients, including by formally reporting concerns about staff and client behavior so that it may be addressed promptly to address the health and safety of all involved,” the nonprofit wrote. “Staff, including supervisors, who fail to do so are subject to corrective action, up to and including termination.”  

In the aftermath of the push-up incident and the notices, Jones and Vargas said their agencies are committed to working together on fixes and intend to stick it out.  

“We work collaboratively with the Housing Commission and in partnership, and when it comes to this, what we’ve been doing over the months is addressing any concerns and misunderstandings and miscommunications – and I think we’ve been doing a good job in that regard,” Vargas said. “There’s more work to be done in that regard.” 

Jones struck a similar tone. 

“We need every resource at the table, and though there have been some challenges we’re working through together over the past year, our commitment is to continue to support and invest in our provider partners in the community,” Jones said.  

Lisa is a senior investigative reporter who digs into some of San Diego's biggest challenges including homelessness, city real estate debacles, the region's...

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  1. I am glad to see this article and the actions of the Housing Commission. I know Father Joes projects this warm caring image, especially in its fund raising, but in talking to the homeless who have dealt with Father Joes, that is not what happens inside their shelters.

    Now the other side of that coin is that Father Joes is dealing with a difficult population.

    1. The fact that they won’t cook meals to accommodate peoples schedules is galling. If I can’t wake up in time for lunch, you should save me a plate and so I can heat it up later. This and racism is why I can’t get a job.

      1. Walton,
        So you can not wake up in time for lunch AND you expect then to save you a plate! Clearly this is NOT racism and it is clear why you are having a hard time finding a job.

  2. Father Joe’s scouring the city right now for a homeless Asian so they can suspend them for stats lol. If you’re trying to impose racial quotas you’re a loser and should reevaluate your life.

  3. My free meal was lacking in grey poupon.
    No doubt most of the issues were created by the hobos.
    Experience tells me to believe the Father Joe side of the story.
    I had a section 8 tenant, the apartment failed inspection due to an unsafe “hole in the wall” I asked the inspector if the hole was there at his last inspection “no” – so you are suggesting the landlord snuck in sometime and put a hole is his own wall? Tenant had “no idea what happened”.

  4. This is just further proof that Father Joe’s is nothing but a homeless “business” that makes an incredible amount of money off the homeless population. They have no incentive to help these people and they do not care about them because then they would not have the opportunity to overcharge their funding sources for the mediocre “services” they provide. It is a known fact that Father Joe’s hires the worst and most unqualified staff because they can pay them nothing. God willing, Father Joe’s will go out of “business” and cease to exist. It would serve the master swindler, “Father” Joe Carroll right to have his empire crumble to nothing because he was nothing but a disgraceful, disgusting, manipulative and immoral politician.

  5. When Father Joe’s was actually being used to lead the effort to address the homeless problem we had less homeless. Now the Homeless Commission is in charge and the homeless population has drastically increased, huge amounts of money given to them and the business and residential community is being terrorized by homeless related crime, drug addiction and violence. Clearly Father Joe’s is not the problem.

    1. Sure. Keep believing that. Father Joe obviously wore out his knee pads on you and you are unable to see reality.

    2. And if you don’t believe Father Joe’s is the problem, go to Golden Hall and check out the mess they have in their facility and outside of it. They have no control whatsoever and they don’t care. I cannot believe how people can be so naive and blind…

  6. Looks to me like SDHC has someone else in mind to provide these services and now they’re creating a paper trail to justify the switch.

    Better start increasing your political donations Father Joe’s. It’s the only way you’re going to keep this gig.

    1. The problem is, Father Joe is no longer around to get on his knees. Hopefully his homeless empire will be reduced to dust. I am surprised it has not failed already under the incompetent leadership of “Deacon” Vargas…

      1. Vargas is such an awful, vain man. He doesn’t care about homeless people at all. I used to work at FJV, and Vargas was the reason everyone would quit. I’m honestly shocked he hasn’t been fired by now.

  7. Let’s be honest. This homeless crisis is a business. Majority of the funding goes towards employees. I worked in Public Health Services and only a small amount went into actual services. Why are non-profit corporations making so much money and the CEOs ranking hundreds of thousands of dollars??? This whole system is corrupt.

  8. Really? Disparity in the % of blacks served and the % suspended? Did anyone check to make sure the suspensions were valid? I suspect they were. I think there’s a disparity in bad behavior, we see it playing out in the national statistics. Forced equity is stupid.

    1. Most of the staff were black, including management. But if the staff were in telly enough to do a better job less clients would’ve been suspended. Indeed, the inmates there ran the asylum.

  9. I live there now and have been there for almost a year. The report above does not even begin to indicate the truth of the incredible awful reality of day to day life in that shelter. The incredible and ugly problems are NOT the Clients! The ongoing problems are the STAFF!

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