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Plans for a New Homeless Shelter in San Diego Ignite Controversy

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While San Diego boasts a beautiful array of beaches, high-rises, concert halls and restaurants, the city is also troubled with a problem many other urban areas face—namely, the issue of what to do to remedy the issue of homelessness on city streets. A recent plan developed by the nonprofit organization People Assisting the Homeless to build a new “one-stop” homeless shelter in downtown San Diego has ignited controversy from area residents and business owners, who view the plan as a deterioration of the community in which they live.

PATH, as the Los Angeles based group is otherwise known, already operates PATHMall, a large, 40,000 square foot year-round homeless shelter in Los Angeles, as well as four other shelters in the L.A. Area. Were the same scheme to be adopted in San Diego, the shelter would be located at the current site of the World Trade Center on Sixth Avenue in the business district. And it is precisely that choice of location that has local business owners cringing.

Tim Cowden, a real estate consultant who works in the business district has been an opponent of the plan from the beginning. “In general, when you concentrate that many homeless in one site, the bad behavior gets magnified,” Cowden told the UT. Cowden is not alone in his worries about the one-stop homeless shelter simply worsening the issue—many store proprietors believe that a shelter resembling PATHMall will only encourage homeless people to congregate, discouraging customers and harming business.

PATH officials, on the other hand, contend that the basic idea of their plan is to provide a safe, welcoming space for homeless people to reside and pass time in. The approach, they argue, actually keeps large numbers of homeless people off the street and keeps area businesses from having to deal with the problem.

Were the plan to be approved, it would cost 31 million dollars and involve restructuring of the downtown World Trade Center building.

Photo from eschipul via flickr

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