Could this proposal solve San Diego’s homeless problem?

Camp Hope is one way of housing and feeding the poor, but whether the idea gains popularity remains to be seen

Camey Christenson talks with a homeless individual in downtown San Diego during the annual homeless count last month. (Howard Lipin / San Diego Union-Tribune)

The time has come for us to seek out a realistic way to manage our worsening problem of people living on the streets of our city and to do so in a manner that best serves our city’s entire population of 1.35 million. With this in mind, we propose the establishment of “Camp Hope San Diego” on city-owned land adjacent to Brown Field.

The purpose of this camp is to safely and respectfully house all of the men, women and children living on our streets, as well as provide ample space for the amazing, generous organizations that serve them.

Allowing the homeless to sleep wherever they choose is not beneficial to them either — they are living in inhumane conditions surrounded by speeding cars, street thugs, gang members, drug dealers, thieves, dogs, rats, trash, disease, cold, wind, rain, and, most dangerously of all, the recent string of assaults and murders perpetrated upon homeless people.

This situation is beyond outrageous, but our homeless population is not to blame — the culprit is failed city leadership.

Must our city continue into the abyss? We say No. There is a better way — one that is fair and beneficial to all concerned.

Camp Hope San Diego — the vision forward:

• No homeless camping or loitering would be allowed anywhere in the city of San Diego, except within the jurisdiction of Camp Hope — a spectacular open space setting with breathtaking views and fresh air, just 13 miles southeast of downtown. 

• San Diego County, plus the other 17 cities within, are invited to partner in this effort. Doing so will prevent their jurisdictions from becoming homeless migration points. 

• Camp residents can come and go as they please; there will be no fences or residency fees.

• Housing will be large military-style tenting with portable bathrooms and showers (think Stand Down), enabling the camp to quickly expand or contract based on need/weather. If preferred, individuals can pitch their own tents. 

• Large tents will be provided for homeless service providers — Father Joe’s, Rescue Mission, Food Bank, Path, Catholic Charities, Veteran’s Village, God’s Extended Hand, Salvation Army, Solutions For Change, etc. — for dining, gatherings, services, etc. 

• The “Entry to System” facility will initially be downtown, working in conjunction with these homeless service providers. 

• Upon arrival at Camp Hope, a state-of-the-art intake tent will greet and direct new residents. 

• Special tents will be devoted to job training and rehabilitation, with 12-step meetings daily.

• First-aid tents and private jitney services (for hospital runs) will be available 24/7.

• MTS bus/trolley service is available nearby for residents needing transportation to jobs, medical appointments, etc. Highways 905 and 125 intersect adjacently. 

• A permanent police outpost will keep the peace, and private security will patrol 24/7.

Full piece by George Mullen and Brian Caster at San Diego Union-Tribune. Mullen is principal of StudioRevolution.com. Caster is CEO of A-1 Self Storage and a local philanthropist. Both are native San Diegans.

Related: On February 27, Bishop David G. O’Connell will speak at the San Gabriel Valley Business Summit to End Homelessness, organized by Los Angeles County Supervisor Janice Hahn. Topics include the Problem of Homelessness & the LA County Homeless Initiative, the Impacts of Measure H, strategies for the Community on Combatting Homelessness, and testimonies from Business Leaders on Assisting the Homeless. The summit will be located at the Hacienda Heights Community Center.

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  1. It sounds compassionate to offer a place to those without housing. I believe it may be undermined by groups who will promote the rights of individuals to free association and for gathering wherever they choose. For those in our neighborhood, we try to greet them by name and to offer food when they come to our door, and to let them know that they are welcome to do so.

    • Greg the Geologist says:

      Fr. Richard is right to point out that what is conceptually a good idea may be steered by those who have an agenda other than helping people in a tough situation. I’d add that there may be problems with illicit ‘business’ activities (drugs, etc.) in such a camp that will require careful police operations. I’d also suggest that the place would need a US post office (or annex of existing local PO) with mailboxes for those corresponding with employers, family, etc. Overall worth thinking about, realistically and in terms of costs. On a lighter note, why Brown Field, when we now have a big chunk of real estate that isn’t doing anything in Mission Valley? Call it Camp Spanos!

  2. CalCatholic reader says:

    Great idea. Good luck making it work.

  3. positive comprehensive services in a clean safe environment.

    negative out of sight, outof mind

  4. I’d rather we take care of our own US citizens first like our homeless, than Islamic “refugees” and illegal immigrants, if you can believe if they truly are!

  5. John Burgess says:

    I think this is a fantastic idea and it deserves a try! Of course you won’t get everyone to volunteer to go but is a lot better solution than doing nothing and having the city come by every Monday and trash unclaimed belongings. This would give those who have run out of options a chance to have a better life.

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