by Photo courtesy of Pallet Shelter via Twitter

Chula Vista City Council entered a three-year, $5.7 million service provider agreement with the Long Beach-based nonprofit City Net to operate the Homeless Bridge Shelter. 

The nonprofit offers homeless programs in four southern California counties. The city anticipates breaking ground in June and opening doors in the late summer. 

“Every step is the appropriate step along the journey to ultimately end homelessness,” City Net Founder Brad Fieldhouse told council members

The City Council authorized the purchase of 66 Pallet Shelter Units on Oct. 26, 2021, to develop Chula Vista’s first Homeless Bridge Shelter at 205 27th Street, near the intersection of Faivre Street and Broadway. The shelter will accommodate indoor, overnight sleeping for up to 65 individuals per evening. 

To decrease the impact on the surrounding neighborhood, bed availability will be handled through a reservation-based system, reads a city staff report. The shelter will prioritize the city’s homeless residents with long-term ties to the community and other relevant criteria such as level of vulnerability, frequency of service use, and seniors 60 and older.

According to a city staff report, “the program will provide safe, bridge housing, stabilization, and supportive services, to prepare them for the most appropriate long term or permanent housing interventions, contributing to the regional goals of ensuring instances of homelessness are rare, brief, and non-recurring”. 

The shelter has a total bed capacity of 138, but city officials said they will begin in the first year with fewer beds based on available funding. The site will include two trailers for showers, restrooms, laundry connections, and two 400-square-foot units for meals and case management.

“Congratulations, by the way, for getting this far,” Fieldhouse said. “These are huge lifts, to get projects like this that will be transformative (and) will change lives".

City Net has been the operator of several bridge housing and emergency housing options for people experiencing homelessness, including COVID quarantine facilities, seasonal winter shelters, and emergency bridge housing solutions from encampment clearings. The organization has worked with sites housing 25 residents to over 100 in Santa Barbara, Los Angeles, Orange County, Riverside, and San Diego. 

The city issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) in October 2021 in search of a shelter operator. City Net proposed a $1.94 million plan and was the lowest bidder among Alpha Project and Adjoin, which has worked with San Diego County. 

City Net plans to have employees with roles in case management, janitorial, security, housing, and data entry. The operator proposed to offer life skills workshops and events, like movie nights and holiday meals, to establish a sense of peer support and community.

Despite recently being contracted with San Diego, City Net is new to Chula Vista. The nonprofit plans to establish a Community Engagement Specialist who will work exclusively on building rapport, relationships, and ownership with the local community, churches, community service organizations, and relevant partner agencies. 

City Net officials said they will continue to work with community organizations, including Adjoin, the Alpha Project, and SBCS, to increase the accessibility of resources to the people staying at the site. 

“We have a giving and compassionate community. So many people have already offered to be a part of this to help. I think this is going to be very successful,” Councilmember Jill Galvez said. 

According to the city, clients will be admitted to the shelter with “low threshold” requirements so chronic and vulnerable homeless people can easily enter and remain in the shelter until they can find permanent housing. Each client will be screened before arrival at the site for sex offender, arsonist, and active felony warrant status before admission. 

Mayor Mary Casillas Salas has repeatedly vocalized disapproval of a congregate tent being placed in Chula Vista, which has a homeless population of nearly 800, and of that count, 672 individuals are unsheltered, according to the city.   

“The tent had good providers and tried to do the best that they could, but it didn't reach the level where that person can reach some sense of dignity, privacy, and returning to normalcy,” Salas said. 

With a non-congregate setting, Salas said “[residents] will have the experience of having their own key to lock up those shelters, giving them that sense of home and belonging.” 

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