Alpha Square opens housing for 200 former homeless

SAN DIEGO (KUSI) – It is well-known that San Diego has a major homeless problem.

On any given night, there are 8,700 men, women and children sleeping on the streets or in temporary shelters.

But a new housing option just opened and it’s run by an organization that’s been dealing with this issue for years.

Many people moving into the new Alpha Square now live in the Hotel Metro, an affordable yet very rundown building in San Diego.

The new building will have businesses, a pizza shop and a salon on the bottom floor so people can work downstairs to pay their reduced rent upstairs.

On April 1, 2015, Bob McElroy of the Alpha Project walked through the winter homeless tent in the East Village for the last time.

Seven months later, he cut the ribbon on Alpha Square, a 200 unit apartment building for low income and former homeless San Diegans on 14th and Market.

Years ago, having permanent housing like this was just a dream and now it’s a reality.

"I see grandpas and grandmas on the sidewalk pointing saying that’s where I’m going to live. that’s my house," McElroy said.

Two hundred people will officially move into Alpha Square in a few weeks, people like Patrick Brady.

Brady used to be known as the mayor of the Embarcadero. He lived there for 14 years, strung out on meth and heroin.  That is until the Alpha Project did an intervention.

"Where would I be? I’d be dead. I wouldn’t be here sitting talking to ya," he said.

The $46 million building run by Alpha Project was built quickly, in a year and a half and it took a village.

The San Diego Housing Commission, the city, investment corporations, all came together to get people off the streets for good.

"It’s not enough to have a tent up Thanksgiving to Easter, and say the job is done. It’s 365 days a year," said Councilmember Todd Gloria.

And the winter tent is no more, so things will be different this year. 

"Obviously there’s not enough room at the inn for everybody. These are 200 of the most infirmed on the vulnerability index, mentally ill, drug addicted and have been homeless the longest," McElroy said.

McElroy’s goal when he started this business 29 years ago was to end homelessness in San Diego.

And he’s doing it, a few hundred people at a time.

"We’ve tried our best over the decades, but I’m hoping now will jump start the process of creating more so we can actually solve it before I have to ride off into the sunset,’ he said.

There is concern about the 8,500 other homeless San Diegans, especially as the weather gets colder.

The folks at Alpha Project hope the city will put up a few temporary tents for at least one more season just to get another few hundreds folks through the winter months as they wait for more permanent housing to be built.

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