San Diego’s Bridge Housing Program

San Diego’s Bridge Housing Program
August 4, 2020 Charly Ligety

San Diego Bridge Housing Program

San Diego Navigation Center – Alpha Project Bridge Shelter at 16th


In December 2017, The Alpha Project’s Bridge Shelter opened in downtown San Diego, providing transitional housing for 324 single, adult men and women. This is the first of three bridge shelters in San Diego – the second bridge shelter (17th and Imperial) is managed by Father Joe’s Village for families, and the third (Veterans Village of San Diego) is managed by Vets for veterans.


  • In April 2017, it was widely reported that among the county’s homeless population, 62 percent were in the City of San Diego. The city’s total of 5,619 homeless represented a 10.3 percent increase from the prior year. In December 2017, an annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development said San Diego County had the fourth-largest homeless population in the United States. The San Diego region’s total of 9,100 homeless people was behind only New York City, Los Angeles County, and King County, Wash. (Seattle area).
  • San Diego ranked 10th nationally, with 1,589 homeless families with children; seventh in 1,160 unaccompanied homeless youth ages 18-24; and third for homeless veterans, approximately 1,067 military veterans in a city — which is designated as the second best military town in the country, contributing hundreds of millions of dollars to our local economy. It became evident that our community had failed to care for the men and women who have served our country (source).
  • In mid-2017, San Diego yet again made national news with the Hepatitis A outbreak that killed 20 people, and sickened hundreds of others — two-thirds of which were homeless, illicit drug-users, or both (source).

Mission: Provide an alternative to encampments to help move people off the streets, through bridge housing facilities, and into long-term housing.

Backstory Detail


  • Late in 2016, Seidler and Shea’s group met with Dr. James Harris III, president of the University of San Diego, to discuss developing a “Best in Class” model based upon successful homeless solutions in other U.S. cities, specifically: Houston, Phoenix, and Salt Lake City. The team concluded that no practical endeavor concerning the homeless will work without an integrated approach to the issue. Chief among the integrated approach included 1) Full utilization of the Coordinated Entry System (CES); 2) a needs assessment component; 3) triage resources; and 4) full utilization of the Homeless Management Information System (HMIS).
  • In June of 2017, in partnership with the University of San Diego, Seidler and Shea’s team held a press conference to announce plans for a new idea: a temporary homeless shelter idea where Sprung Structure industrial tents would house up to 250 San Diegans in each shelter by the end of 2017.
  • Read Full Story (link here)
  • 2020 Covid-19 Update: The site has been temporary cleared out due to density of congregate shelter in the tent (bunk beds did not allow to be compliant with recommended CDC social distancing guidelines).
  • As of August 2020, no additional sites are planned for additional interim shelter built from ground up.


Owner: Land  is a vacated, dead-end street, located adjacent to The San Diego Metropolitan Transit System’s SANDAG service center, alongside the rail yard.

Previous Use: Dead-end street.

Use Arrangement: Street is owned by the city.

Site Selection Criteria Considerations: Dead-end road used for a winter shelter site in prior instances.

Site Selection Notes


  • Plans for the site started in 2017, site was formerly used for winter shelter site
  • Alpha Project approached the community proactively providing how the surrounding neighborhood would benefit from the presence of a new shelter nearby – including cleaner streets with free street clean up, more local resources for businesses, and workforce training opportunities
  • School nearby (Monarch School) already has families experiencing homelessness and was familiar with need for shelter
  • Alpha Project develops a neighborhood plan, stood up a community advisory group (BID, community groups) – meeting monthly with various city stakeholders and groups, and housing commission (SDHC) has a hotline for any neighborhood issues that should arise



Upfront Development* +$500k site prep

+$2.8 million building


$1.5 million contributed from Lucky Duck Foundation to purchase the structures, used by the City at no charge.

City pays for the site prep, estimated to be $500k for sites without utility connections, $1 million for sites that have connections.

Cost Per Bed* $10k/bed 324 beds in total
Operating Costs* ~$6.2 million/year San Diego Housing Commission (SDHC) reserves and a federal Moving to Work grant.

Exact source of funding for operations varies from year to year. Each year consists of several sources of as-available funds (Moving the Work, general funds, HEAP, HHAP).

Cost Per Bed* $19k/year $52.50/bed/night  blended rate based on range of $46-59/bed/night, varies based on intensity of case management required on-site.


Funding Notes


  • In 2015, philanthropic partners – Peter Seidler, majority owner and managing partner of the San Diego Padres and CEO of Seidler Equity Partners, asked businessman Dan Shea, owner of Donovan’s restaurants, to join him to help solve the humanitarian plight of the homeless in San Diego.
  • The team committed to provide funding for some of the Sprung tents to begin the process immediately, if city and county government did their respective parts in contributing to daily shelter services, assessments, and mental health wrap-around services.
  • Lucky Duck purchased two Sprung tents for city, leased to the City at no charge.
  • City of San Diego helped secure more than $6.5 million in permanent housing funding from the San Diego Housing Commission to make the project possible.
  • Continued operating costs come from the City, approved annually by the San Diego City Council to use more than $11 million to keep three temporary bridge shelters (voted in June 2019 for operations through June 2020). The funding is split between the Alpha Project, $5.3 million, Veterans Village of San Diego, $3.5 million, and Father Joe’s Villages, $2.4 million.
  • Funding for the bridge shelter program will come from the San Diego Housing Commission (SDHC) reserves and a federal Moving to Work grant.

Additional Funding Notes

  • This year, as part of the State’s Fiscal Year (FY) 2019-20 Budget, the State set aside $650 million in one-time funding for the construction and expansion of emergency shelters and
    navigation centers, rapid rehousing, permanent supportive housing, job programs, and for innovative projects like hotel/motel conversions. The Homeless Housing, Assistance, and
    Prevention Program (HHAPP) will make available $275 million to large cities, with a significant portion going to Los Angeles.
  • Prior state funds for emergency shelters were provided by the 2018-enacted HEAP funding allocations (link).


Lead Deal Coordinator

San Diego Housing Commission and City of San Diego
Philanthropic Funder Lucky Duck Foundation
Community Engagement City of San Diego
Construction Management San Diego City’s General Services and City Facilities Depts
Shelter Vendor / Manufacturer Sprung Structure
On-Site Assembly   San Diego City’s General Services and City Facilities Depts


Design Notes


  • The design includes one main tent and centralized bathroom facility
  • Site prep included hook up to electrical, sewage, and water lines
  • City GSD and facilities and housing commission procurement division (project managers) involved in development process


Lead Operator:

Operator Alpha Project is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) human services organization that serves over 4,000 men, women, and children each day. Founded in 1986 as a simple project offering work opportunities for homeless men. The agency has created over 600 units of affordable rental housing projects and has sponsored home ownership programs.

Agreement In November 2017, the Housing Commission Board of Commissioners (Board), City Council, and Housing Authority authorized the execution of agreements for the operation of the City’s Temporary Bridge Shelters for a period of seven months from December 1, 2017, through June 30, 2018. This approval supported the oversight and management of the Shelters, operated at three sites within the City, with the goals of addressing homelessness in the City and combating the regional Hepatitis A outbreak. In May 2018, the Housing Commission Board, City Council, and Housing Authority authorized the execution of the first option to renew agreements for the operation of the City’s Temporary Bridge Shelters for a period of three months, from July 1, 2018, through September 30, 2018.
  • 50 day-shift workers
  • 6.5:1 residential coordinators
  • Shelter Manager
  • Program Supervisor
  • Logistic Coordinators
  • Case Managers
  • Security
  • Janitorial
  • Back-end Admin
Services Provided Alpha Project provides wraparound services, which include intensive case management, linkages to medical and mental health support, groups and classes for self- awareness.

  • 24-hour residential services and staffing
  • At least two (2) meals per days.
  • Security, janitorial services, waste removal, fire watch, laundry.
  • Serves the community’s most vulnerable individuals from each of the intervention categories using a low barrier and Housing First model;
  • Uses best practices techniques and delivery system such as Motivational Interviewing, Trauma Informed Care, and Critical Time Intervention; and
  • Utilizes Housing Navigation
  • Strives to create a cohesive workflow within the Regional Coordinated Entry System (CES).
  • ~$52.50/bed/night operating costs
Operating Expenses
  • On-Site Personnel
  • Maintenance
  • Client Services, meals


Operation Notes


  • Alpha is a nonprofit that has done work with the City of San Diego in the past and runs workforce development programs, meal service programs (Wheels for Change), runs street outreach teams, and has proactive community engagement approach.
  • San Diego contracted Alpha as a sole source provider for the site due the emergency situation in 2017.
  • As intended, the Bridge Shelters are reaching out to and serving the most vulnerable San Diegans who are experiencing homelessness. Of the population served since the opening of the Shelters, 55 percent across all three Bridge Shelters entered the Shelters with no income, and an additional 8 percent had
    income at entry of $500 or less. Of the total persons served since the opening of the Shelters, 2,521 as of July 31, 2018, 56 percent had a disability, 48 percent were chronically homeless, and 35 percent were 55 years of age or older.
  • Local preference policy at shelters – People from the tent city campground in Golden Hill are the first to move in here.
  • Talent retention and acquisition is an issue due to challenging work conditions and shortage of applicably-skilled workers. As such, case managers are paid competitive salaries.

Relevant Materials


Operating Budget:


Two Other Bridge Shelter Sites

Father Joe’s Village Bridge Shelter

Opened January 2018.

Occupancy: 141 beds.

Site Owner: ___

Site Use Arrangement: __

Funding Source:

Operator: Father Joe’s



Veteran’s Village San Diego (VVSD)

Opened November 2019.

Occupancy: 200 beds.

Site Owner: ___

Site Use Arrangement: 6-month operating agreement with Veterans Village of San Diego.

Funding Source: ___

Operator: Veterans Village of San Diego.

Innovation Themes