Program provides up to 400 tents, basic amenities and supportive services for those experiencing homelessness
SAN DIEGO – As part of his comprehensive strategy to address homelessness, Mayor Todd Gloria on Friday, October 20 announced that the city’s second Safe Sleeping Program site, which offers safe, legal camping for unsheltered San Diegans, began intakes on Saturday, October 21. It is one of the largest shelter spaces being operated in the City of San Diego.
The O Lot Safe Sleeping site, located on city property at the edge of Balboa Park near the Naval Medical Center, has capacity for up to 400 tents, each allowing space for two people. In addition to tents, the program provides on-site amenities and services, including meals, restrooms, showers, laundry, storage trailers, case management, basic needs assistance and resource referrals.
“Building on the success of our first Safe Sleeping site, the O Lot is an opportunity for many more people who’ve become homeless to work on getting back on their feet in a safe, sanitary environment,” said Mayor Gloria. “I’m grateful to city staff for working around the clock to get the site ready to welcome people in off the streets and get them on a path to permanent housing.”
In June, the city opened the first Safe Sleeping site at an operations yard at 20th and B streets in Golden Hill. The site is currently serving 148 people in 122 tents. Safe Sleeping is part of a larger city shelter program that includes a number of options, such as congregate and non-congregate shelters as well as four Safe Parking lots.
“When I envisioned the Safe Sleeping Initiative, I knew it would be impactful, and it has exceeded my expectations. The opening of this second location is evidence of this program’s success,” said City Councilmember Stephen Whitburn. “Many unsheltered people are choosing to leave our sidewalks and stay instead at Safe Sleeping sites with security, bathrooms, showers, meals and connections to housing. These sites play an important role in our effort to help people get off the streets and improve public health and safety for all San Diegans.”
Operation of the O Lot site will be broken into three subsections, or tiers. Two of the tiers will be operated by Dreams for Change, which currently oversees the city’s other Safe Sleeping site; the remaining tier will be operated by the Downtown San Diego Partnership.
“Dreams for Change is excited to be part of this new expansion,” said CEO Teresa Smith. “In the past three months, we learned what it would take to scale this program to serve more vulnerable, unsheltered people who were living on the streets without daily support. We look forward to continuing this collaboration with the city and other service providers.”
“We are confident that this new chapter of our impact as an organization aligns with the expertise of our team and the mission and vision of the Downtown San Diego Partnership,” said president & CEO Betsy Brennan. “With the commitments made by the City of San Diego as leaders of this effort, we are ready to double down on the solutions-oriented and successful work of our Unhoused Care Team to get people off the streets into stability and safety, and to continue to work alongside our clients with a human-centered and compassionate approach to ensure they are stably housed.”
To prepare the site, City crews expanded and stabilized an access road for travel to and from O Lot. The road was widened to allow for delivery and emergency vehicles and will be used only for Safe Sleeping Program access.
To help with inclement and cooler weather conditions, the city purchased insulated tents that will help regulate internal temperatures, and city crews built 4-inch platforms to be placed underneath each tent.
Following feedback from program participants, the city’s Homelessness Strategies and Solutions Department is currently working to set up a free shuttle service for clients to transport them between a designated Downtown location and the two Safe Sleeping Program sites. This service aims to help individuals access other services, run errands or go to work or school.
People experiencing homelessness can be referred to the city’s Safe Sleeping Program through the city’s Coordinated Street Outreach Program or through the San Diego Police Department. To qualify, individuals must be 18 years or older and sign an agreement to comply with site rules. Couples or partners may enter the site together. Domestic pets and personal belongings are welcome.
After extensive review of vacant city-owned land, the two Safe Sleeping sites were selected in early May, and work began immediately to prepare them. More information on the city’s Comprehensive Shelter Strategy and other projects being explored can be found at sandiego.gov/hssd.
(City of San Diego Release)