No vote on hotel tax could affect homeless bridge shelters

SAN DIEGO (KUSI) — 700 people are off the street, housed in three of the large bridge shelters that the City of San Diego opened about nine months ago.

City leaders, responding to an outbreak of Hepatitis A said it would be remedy the public health crisis and offer people a means to transition to permanent housing.

The money that would have been raised from a hike in the hotel tax would help the city to pay the tab for these tents- but that’s not an option anymore.

In a blow to Mayor Faulconer’s plans to raise the hotel tax, the measure failed to make the ballot.

Now, without any new money on the horizon, the City Council faces an even tougher decision next summer when it must determine if the city has the money to keep the tents open.

Bob McElroy is the head of Aloha Project which runs one of the bridge tents. He said taking the tents down would be a step backwards, retuning San Diego to the same conditions that led to the Hepatitis A outbreak last fall.

McElroy said making permanent supportive housing a priority sounds good in concept, but that kind of housing doesn’t exist. “I wish someone would tell me how much inventory of low income housing exists in San Diego. When I ask that question, all I hear is crickets,” McElroy said.

Deacon Jim Vargas, the President and CEO of Father Joe’s Villages, which operates the bridge tent for women and children, also believes the tents are needed.

Looking at the bigger picture, both Vargas and McElroy said San Diego County does not have sufficient housing. Without more housing, they said there is nowhere for the people in the tents to go, but back to the street.

“In not having the tents, as a form of intervention, the lack of those tents, does that mean more people will go into the streets? If that’s the case, we, as a community need to decide if that’s what we want,” Vargas said. He said permanent housing for low income families has to be a critical part of reducing homelessness. “If you don’t have permanent housing in the mix of solutions, how truly are you going to really impact change for the long term?”

Categories: Local San Diego News