County and city officials Thursday visited and toured an 11-unit, 22-bed “Community Harm Reduction Safe Haven” scheduled to open early January.
The facility, operated by Episcopal Community Services, will be able to serve up to 22 unsheltered residents living with mental illness and/or chronic substance use conditions. It is one component of a city-county partnership entered into by Supervisor Nathan Fletcher and Mayor Todd Gloria in June 2021.
“Every person living on the streets in San Diego County is not going through the same situation. Different types of solutions are needed and this program is one of them,” Fletcher said. “The community harm reduction teams, shelter and now this safe haven are important tools to support unsheltered residents, overcome their reliance on substances and get them connected to permanent housing.”
Last December, the city and county opened the 44-bed Midway shelter in a former Pier One store. According to a joint statement, since inception of the Community Harm Reduction Teams program, 209 clients have received care at the shelter.
The new safe haven, on the campus of Veterans Village San Diego at 4141 Pacific Highway, will increase the overall capacity of the program and the supportive housing component is intended to assist with the transition from homeless and/or shelter to permanent housing.
“This Safe Haven is the next positive step in the city-county partnership to address homelessness with bold and meaningful action. Addiction and mental illness are blocking the path forward for many of our unsheltered residents, and this healthcare-focused shelter will help clear the way for folks who raise their hand and ask for assistance,” Gloria said.
Under the partnership, the city will cover the costs to use the facility and the county will cover operating costs.
This will be Episcopal Community Services’s second safe haven facility. It also operates a location in Bankers Hill.
“ECS is committed to providing a warm and welcoming environment for our clients as they receive the care and support they need to recover and achieve independence,” said Elizabeth Fitzsimons, CEO of Episcopal Community Services. “Our team of multidisciplinary experts deliver evidence-based care with compassion and empathy, drawing on lived and professional experience.
“We proudly offer this essential service to our community, and we look forward to working with clients to help them on their journey to wellness,” she said.
At the facility, at least two staff will be present 24/7. It will have a designated entrance for clients and staff, separate from the treatment programs on campus, a common area for socialization, with semi-private bedrooms and Family Health Centers of San Diego will provide ongoing care coordination, case management and support services as needed either in person or virtually.
“The partnership between the county and city is critical to advance the ultimate goal of helping people who are experiencing homelessness by providing health and housing,” said Dr. Piedad Garcia, deputy director with the county’s Behavioral Health Services. “It’s as simple as that.”