By most accounts, the plan to move the Neil Good Day Center from its location at 17th Street in East Village to the campus of St. Vincent de Paul Village is solid and will be beneficial to downtown’s homeless constituency.
One aspect of the move that was brought to my attention was neither earthshaking nor insignificant—but the apparent dropping of Neil Good’s name from the title of the day center was somewhat puzzling. (Keep reading for the surprise ending to this story.)
Since it opened in 1991, The Neil Good Day Center has been hailed as a place where homeless people could get access to mail service, do laundry, take a shower and seek safe haven during the day.
The Neil Good Day Center has routinely struggled over the years to find local and/or national funding sources. Observers say the roof and shower facilities are in disrepair. The building is proximal to an I-5 onramp, has no sidewalks and has become the site of a major tent encampment. Observers fear for the lives of tent dwellers who walk by or push shopping carts past the onramp on a daily basis.
Last year, the city awarded administration of the 17th Street facility to St. Vincent de Paul Village, which is under the Father Joe’s Villages umbrella.
The multi-use St. Vincent de Paul campus for homeless services is just a few blocks away, and the plan is to build a bigger-and-better day center there.
“The mission will be the same,” said St. Vincent de Paul Chief Development Officer Bill Bolstad. And with proximity to other services (like healthcare) and with operational showers, he said more people should be able to get assistance.
The new day center will be located at the corner of 14th Street and Commercial Avenue, adjacent to the soon-to-open, multi-million-dollar Airborne San Diego. During ongoing construction of this oddly juxtaposed, privately owned indoor skydiving facility, the land slated for the day center has been leased from St. Vincent de Paul by Airborne as a construction lay-down area. Airborne president Buzz Fink promised that the property will be cleared by the time building permits for the new day center are ready—at an indeterminate date later this year.
The new day center is referred to by different names in city documents and by homelessness officials. Several people who closely follow homelessness issues were convinced the new name of the day center would not include “Neil Good.”
As a print deadline neared, a San Diego Housing Commission spokesperson could not confirm that.
Who was Neil Good? In 1987, Good became the second openly gay man to run for San Diego City Council, according to an obituary in The San Diego Union-Tribune. On a ballot with nine candidates, Good missed getting to a runoff election by a few hundred votes, trailing behind two very high-profile names—former mayor Bob Filner and former city attorney Mike Aguirre. Two years later, Good was just 41 when he died of hepatitis. He worked as a reporter for the San Diego Daily Transcript and served as a top aide to Leon Williams when Williams was a county supervisor and a city councilmember. Good also served a two-year term as chairman of the San Diego County Democratic Party.
Bob McElroy, president and CEO of the nonprofit human services organization Alpha Project—which previously managed the Neil Good Day Center—remembered Good as a strong advocate for the homeless. “He was a great guy, and he was a homeless advocate back when there weren’t very many,” he said.
This all seemed wrong. Moments before CityBeat was going to press, though, a spokesperson for City Councilmember Todd Gloria sent this email: “Our office was able to connect with Bill Bolstad and the program will continue to carry the Neil Good name. Neither the city, nor Father Joe’s has any intention of changing the name of the program. I hope this clears things up.”
Whew. There’s plenty of work to be done on the homelessness front. But for the moment, we’re Good.
(Reminder: August 17 is San Diego Homeless Awareness Day. To date, more than a dozen media outlets have pledged to aim coverage at the topic that day. Please encourage more TV, radio, print or online media to join the ranks. For more information, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.)