Shelter for women opens in downtown San Diego

In the city of San Diego’s latest effort to target specific homeless populations, a new shelter will provide 40 beds for women who are overcoming medical issues when it opens next week.

“We are called as people of love to ensure that the tenderness of our hearts reaches out, especially to those who are most vulnerable in our midst,” San Diego Bishop and Cardinal-designate Robert McElroy said Thursday morning at a press conference announcing the opening of Rachel’s Promise on Seventh Avenue.

Catholic Charities will operate the shelter, augmenting services the nonprofit already provides for homeless women at the daytime drop-in Rachel Women’s Center and a 35-bed night shelter for women not far from Rachel’s Promise. The San Diego City Council approved the annual $1.1 million contract earlier this year.

McElroy was joined by San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria, City Councilmembers Stephen Whitburn and Jennifer Campbell and other officials at the press conference.

“Catholic Charities is no stranger to helping our most vulnerable residents,” Gloria said, noting that the nonprofit also operates the 100-bed La Posada shelter in Carlsbad. “‘They have a track record of compassion and, more importantly, success.”

Catholic Charities also runs the 50-bed Our Lady of Guadalupe shelter in Calexico and the 24-bed House of Hope shelter in El Centro. In February, Father Joe’s Villages opened a 28-bed shelter for women at its East Village campus.

The new Rachel’s Promise shelter will prioritize women with medical conditions who do not require or qualify for recuperative care, Gloria said. Some of the woman may have recently been discharged from a hospital.

More than providing a bed for the night, the shelter also will provide access to housing navigators to help clients find permanent homes. Clients also will be provided meals, laundry services, showers, a mailing address and clothing.

Gloria said the shelter is the latest step the city is taking to address populations of people living without shelter who might not want to go into a conventional shelter.

In December, the city opened a 44-bed harm-reduction shelter in the Midway District for people struggling with substance abuse and mental health issues, and in June it repurposed a 42-room property in South Bay as a shelter that gives priority to people 55 and older.

In a few weeks the city and county will open the 120-bed Midway District Bridge Shelter with a focus on helping people with mental issues, and later this summer it will open a 22-bed safe haven for people with acute behavioral health needs.

“As we all know, homelessness in this city is a crisis,” Campbell said. “It’s very complicated and it’s serious, and we take it seriously and we’re doing everything we can as fast as possible to resolve it.”

Campbell said Rachel’s Promise will provide a safe place for homeless women to be heard, supported and to gain the strength they need to make a full recovery and move forward toward permanent housing.

McElroy referred to the work Catholic Charities is doing for homeless people as a calling.

“For us this work is not an option,” he said. “Our faith teaches us that Jesus was homeless with his mother and father at the time of his birth into the world. And thus we are called to operate from the faith which understands that all of us in the human family are part of the one father who makes us one family, who watches over us all.

“And we are called to be people of hope, and in this area of homelessness, that’s a very difficult thing at times because the problems are so complex and the needs so different from person to person, they can threaten to become overwhelming,” he continued.

McElroy said hope prevents people from becoming overwhelmed.

“That’s what Rachel’s Promise is,” he said. “It’s a promise never to lose hope and to take steps in our city of San Diego to make homeless a more manageable and a more humane issue as we face it.”