It seems that the city of San Diego, California, has found a good use for an historic building in the heart of the city. As opposed to letting the building sit vacant and unused, until someone decides to buy and develop it, the city utilized federal, state, and local funds to restore the designated historic site, and turn it into a shelter for homeless veterans, among other at-risk persons.
As reported in the San Diego Union-Tribune, the historic seven-story, 102-year-old Hotel Churchill reopened on September 19, 2016, and offers 72 renovated studio apartments for rent. The building was renovated, and “reconfigured as an affordable housing project,” at a cost of close to $21 million. The project was led by the San Diego Housing Commission (SDHC), utilizing funding provided by “local, state, and federal money.” In other words, taxpayer funding financed the project.
The decision to use the restored hotel to house homeless veterans is part of San Diego’s “Housing our Heroes” campaign, according to the Union-Tribune, which is a concerted effort to house 1,000 homeless veterans in the San Diego area. The program provides cash incentives to landlords to rent to veterans, and has housed over 320 veterans since March, according to the paper. According to the program’s website, over 200 landlords currently participate in the program.
The “Housing our Heroes” campaign is part of a larger San Diego program known as the “1,000 Homeless Veterans Initiative,” which is a collaborative effort on the part of the San Diego Housing Commission and the city of San Diego, to “provide a path off the streets for up to a thousand homeless military veterans in the city of San Diego within a year.”
According to the SDHC website, the San Diego city council voted on March 1, 2016, to authorize the commission to direct up to $4 million in city funds resulting from the ground lease of San Diego Square apartments in downtown San Diego, and up to $3 million from the commission’s pending sale of Hotel Metro in the East Village neighborhood, toward the initiative.
The “1,000 Homeless Veterans Initiative” will also invest close to $12.5 million over two years in federal, city, and SDHC money to provide housing for homeless veterans in the city, who are currently living on the streets or in shelters. Parts of the program are directed at honorably discharged veterans, with disabilities, while other parts of the program are intended for those who may have a less-than-honorable discharge.
Studio apartments in the Hotel Churchill will rent for no more than thirty percent of a tenant’s monthly income, up to $46,700 per year. The hotel was housing 56 formerly homeless veterans, as of September 19, 2016, and was also intended to house eight “at risk” young adults (aged 18-24), as well as eight ex-convicts. It was unclear if veterans could also occupy those spaces as well, as surely some would fit into more than one of those three categories.
In addition to the studio rooms, the hotel will provide on-site social services and case management for its residents. It was unclear if the Veterans Administration (VA) would play a role in either of those support functions.