If the city of San Diego can come up with some money, St. Vincent de Paul Villages, the operator of the city's only day center for the homeless, is willing to keep it open on the weekends.
Under its previous operator, the Alpha Project, the Neil Good Day Center was open five days a week from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. and weekends from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Alpha had been the day center's only operator for the past 17 years, most recently signing a five-year contract in 2003. With the contract up for renewal in June, Alpha proposed extending operating hours to 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. seven days a week, but was disqualified because the proposal they submitted didn't follow a pre-determined format, according to a letter from the city. St. Vincent de Paul, San Diego's largest homeless-services provider, proposed a five-day-a-week operation for just under $439,000 (Alpha's proposal would have cost $400,000).
The day center is what's known as a low-impact service center: it's simply a place where people can go to get off the street, and it tends to attract some of Downtown's most vulnerable homeless residents. Since St. Vincent de Paul took over in July, advocates for the homeless have argued that they've seen an increase in crime, violence and drug and alcohol abuse in the East Village. They also want to know why the city's paying more for fewer operating hours. David Ross—also known as “The Water Man” because he regularly passes out bottles of water to the homeless—said that about 400 people gathered in front of Neil Good on Sunday to get water and McDonald's hamburgers. Ross made a sign that said “Closed on the weekends” and hung it on the day center's locked blue gates (two St. Vincent de Paul guards, accompanied by a German Shepard, removed the sign and refused to return it to Ross.)
On Wednesday, several City Council staff members met with Fr. Joe Carroll, the president of St. Vincent de Paul, and members of Carroll's staff to tour the day center. One City Hall staffer, who spoke to CityBeat on the condition of anonymity, said that the two parties discussed how much it would take to open the day center on the weekends. Carroll confirmed to CityBeat that it would take between $47,000 and $50,000 to open Saturday and Sunday from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. with a skeleton staff.
“In the next couple of weeks, we'll try to be creative” in coming up with funding,” the City Hall staffer said.
When told about this, Ross seemed hopeful. “I hope they keep the bloody thing open until at least 4 or 6 on Saturday and Sunday,” he commented.
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