Special Report: Plan to build a tent city for the homeless near - KUSI News - San Diego, CA

Special Report: Plan to build a tent city for the homeless near Brown Field

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George Mullen George Mullen

SAN DIEGO (KUSI) — Two San Diego businessmen have a plan to help the homeless by building a tent city near Brown Field. Now, they say they also have a plan to pay for it.

"Housing First," that's the model for many cities like San Diego that say building more permanent housing is the only proven way to end homelessness.

But what if there was a way to provide temporary housing away from the downtown area and away from most neighborhoods.

It's certainly a different approach, one that's generating a lot of discussion.

Related Link: Special Report: San Diegan proposes homeless camp in the Otay Mesa area

Instead of sleeping on the cold, hard pavement, people like Trevor Harnakov say they might want to sleep in a place that's far away from the danger and violence of the downtown streets.

The notion of a tent city on county or city owned land in Otay Mesa comes from George Mullen and Brian Caster, two businessmen who've written about their concept in two recent opinion pieces.

"Camp Hope" or "Sunbreak Ranch" as Mullen likes to call it, would be a temporary place for those who are homeless to find shelter, food and access to others services such as mental health counseling, job training and help for substance abuse.

To pay for the homeless camp, Mullen is calling for a modest one-eighth of a cent increase in the county sales tax. He estimates that extra tax money would generate $90 to $100 million a year. Half of it would be used to pay for operating the camp.

The next 25 percent would go to homeless service providers outside the camp and the remaining 25 percent would go to building permanent housing for the chronically homeless.

Mullen said his plan would give the city more authority to enforce anti-loitering and illegal lodging laws. As Mullen points out, it's inhumane to keep ticketing someone who has no other place to stay.

But if there's another option, a shelter near Brown Field, Mullen said that allows the city to return to enforcing its laws against sleeping on the street.

Mullen said San Diego is at the tipping point and he wants to remind his critics that something has to be done.

But others said tent cities are not the answer. The focus has to be on creating housing. Inside City Hall, there is a proposal moving forward right now to build a temporary shelter with a few hundred beds.

One housing advocate said while he doesn't agree with the Sunbreak Ranch idea, he is pleased to see more involvement from the San Diego business community. 

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