Advocates for San Diego's homeless population praised Mayor Kevin Faulconer after he announced his proposal to build a permanent homeless shelter in San Diego. The building would not only provide shelter but also showers and restrooms.
While the proposal is welcome news for San Diego's homeless community, others can't wait for the proposal to become a reality. They want the showers at the Neil Good Day Center, the ones they were told would be renovated over six years ago.
On December 10, Jim Freeman, head of a group of homeless individuals called We-Z-People, filed suit against the city for dragging its feet on the long-overdue renovations.
In July 2008, city council allocated nearly $77,000 in federal Community Development Block Grants to, among other items, fix the showers which were said to have had insufficient plumbing and did not have proper ventilation. Repairs, however, were slow to occur. According to a September 2009 article in CityBeat, a year after the vote the showers were being used as a storage area.
The temporary repairs to the showers didn't last long. In late July of this year, city health inspectors closed the shower facilities after finding significant amount of mold growing inside.
According to the December 10 lawsuit, people must travel to the St. Vincent de Paul facility to take showers, not a friendly place after Freeman and others filed a restraining order against staff members at St. Vincent de Paul for allegedly running an "organized crime operation."
"Plaintiffs are not being able to take showers as needed" reads the lawsuit. "[Neil Good Day Center] has a temporary temperamental arrangement with St. Vincent De Paul Village to use their showers at some odd hours. It is quite impossible often to meet the hours and conditions dictated by the unprofessional management at [St. Vincent De Paul Village]."
In the lawsuit, Freeman and others are asking that the city make good on the repairs. In addition to honoring the contract for the Alpha Project to complete the necessary fixes, the group is requesting a judge award punitive damages of three times the amount the project will cost.
"The Sanctions amount is to be divided into thirds. One third to be distributed between the members for the suffering and inconvenience; one third to Alpha Project to recover its supervision of the construction and the other personnel and security personnel costs; and the last third to WeZpeople.com Advocacy Group for bearing the burden of initiating this lawsuit and time costs of taking it from inception into its ultimate finality."
In a statement, mayoral spokesperson Craig Gustafson says the city has identified the need for "a long-term solution," however, due to the high cost of repairs the city may choose to use the money towards the new homeless shelter.
"These repairs would cost approximately $300,000. To fix the ventilation, a more substantial capital improvement project is required. The mold abatement costs are significant, so it does not make economic sense to invest in these band-aid repairs if the City will be back in the same position soon if the ventilation is not improved," Gustafson wrote in a December 12 email.
"If a new day center location can be identified, the significant capital improvements at Neil Good may not be required."