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San Diego Rescue Mission operates a homeless shelter on Elm Street in downtown San Diego, pictured above. The nonprofit will operate a new shelter in Oceanside. Photo via Facebook/San Diego Rescue Mission
San Diego Rescue Mission operates a homeless shelter on Elm Street in downtown San Diego, pictured above. The nonprofit will operate a new shelter in Oceanside. Photo via Facebook/San Diego Rescue Mission
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San Diego Rescue Mission to operate new Oceanside homeless shelter

OCEANSIDE — Shortly after the Oceanside City Council approved a property-use agreement with the San Diego Rescue Mission at its Nov. 17 meeting, plans commenced preparing the site for a 50-bed homeless shelter by next spring.

Earlier this year, city staff sent out a notice of funding availability and request for proposals to operate a homeless shelter, something that Oceanside currently lacks but has needed for quite some time. Two responses were received from San Diego Rescue Mission and Interfaith Community Services to operate the shelter.

In late June, the majority of the council voted in support of Rescue Mission.

The San Diego Rescue Mission is a nonprofit, Christian-affiliated homeless shelter and recovery center headquartered in San Diego. The organization has been operating since 1955.

The shelter will be located at 3131 Oceanside Boulevard, the site of the former Ocean Shores High School campus. The building will also house the city’s Code Enforcement Services, which will move from its current location on Civic Center Drive following the construction of the new Fire Station 1 and the Oceanside Police Department’s training facility.

“There will be a direct connection of the shelter to the city,” said Neighborhood Services Director Leilani Hines.

The shelter will provide stabilization and support services as well as pathways to more permanent housing for its clients through what staff refers to as “the Program,” which is meant to be a short-term solution in transitioning homeless individuals into housing.

The Program uses a trauma-informed care model designed to serve its clients through its low-barrier entry and operations, meaning very few requirements for entry, and a 30-day maximum stay for clients, with some flexibility for additional time on a case-by-case basis.

The site will not accept walk-ins, opting for referrals from OPD’s Homeless Outreach Team (HOT), the city’s Public Housing Authority and other community service partners.

In addition to its 50 beds, the facility will include showers, wash stations, restrooms, laundry facilities and storage space for participants’ belongings. At least two meals per day will be provided to those staying at the shelter.

The site will include 24-hour security and site control, including no loitering rules.

While the building that will house the shelter is already in place, its structure will need to be renovated to provide adequate space for sleeping and living arrangements, restrooms and showers, laundry, food preparation and dining areas. Ten more parking spaces will need to be added for employees, volunteers and visitors.

The Rescue Mission will provide construction and improvement services while the city will reimburse the organization for costs incurred up to $4.07 million.

According to city staff, the total cost of acquisition, renovations and improvements will be approximately $3.77 million, or roughly at $81,420 per bed. The city’s general fund purchased the property last year for about $1.84 million. The city’s housing inclusionary in-lieu funds, which are paid by developers in the city, will reimburse the general fund up to about $1.25 million.

The city will also cover costs for washers, dryers, a refrigerator, freezer, other kitchen and storage equipment, and furniture for approximately $302,000.

The shelter’s annual operating costs of $974,000, which equates to about $19,480 per bed, will be the responsibility of the Rescue Mission. The city will be responsible for utility expenses due to the property also housing its code enforcement and police training facilities.

Initial terms for the property use agreement are up to three years, with two one-year options to extend at the city’s discretion. Either the city or the Rescue Mission may end the agreement for any reason with 90 days’ advance written notice.

City staff anticipates that the final design and building plans will be finished by the Rescue Mission and submitted to the city by the end of this year. Construction will likely start in February or March of 2022, and occupancy of the shelter will begin in late spring or early summer.

Council approved the property use agreement with the Rescue Mission in a 4-1 vote. Mayor Esther Sanchez opposed the agreement after she felt the organization did not properly address some community concerns and requests additional training regarding the treatment of LGBTQ individuals within the shelter.

Max Disposti, executive director of the North County LGBTQ Resource Center, has been vocal in the past about his concerns with the Rescue Mission not providing specific training when working with LGBTQ homeless individuals.

“This is not a personal attack on the San Diego Rescue Mission, but they don’t have any experience serving a population that accounts for half of the homeless youth for North San Diego County,” Disposti said. “I would like to see in the contract just a few words that could make the institution more accountable than they already are.”

The shelter will be compliant with all federal and state fair housing laws which address non-discrimination, Hines had noted earlier in the meeting. City Attorney John Mullen also noted that the contract with the Rescue Mission includes language barring the organization from discrimination based on gender or gender identity as well as sexual identity, orientation and expression.

According to Rescue Mission President Donnie Dee, his staff and volunteers are already properly trained in informed trauma care and do not discriminate against anyone living on the streets.

“Anyone who comes into our facility is going to feel loved,” said Donnie Dee, president of San Diego Rescue Mission. “We’ve been doing this for a long time, we care about people living on the streets.”

But Dee’s words were not enough for Sanchez.

“It’s not good enough, what you said to me,” Sanchez said. “We have our police department which obviously has good training but in addition supplements training — that’s what I was looking for.”