San Diego’s Bridge Housing Program

San Diego Bridge Housing Program


Alpha Project’s @ 16th & Newton // Father Joe’s Villages’ @ 14th & Commercial // Veterans Village’s @ 17th & Imperial

Project Deep Dive

Alpha Project’s Bridge Housing at 16th & Newton


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 in Midway District has since closed (capacity replaced with permanent housing facilities), and the third facility, originally managed by Father Joe’s Villages for families at 14th and Commercial, was relocated to 17th & Imperial (two blocks away), now managed by Veterans Village of San Diego (VVSD) and serving veterans experiencing homelessness.


  • In April 2017, the City of San Diego had 5,619 people experiencing homelessness, a 10.3% annual increase – becoming the fourth highest homeless population in the U.S. Countywide, San Diego region’s total of 9,100 homeless count was behind only New York City, Los Angeles County, and King County, Wash. (Seattle area), and 3rd largest homeless veterans population (1,067 veterans), where San Diego is recognized as the second best military town in the country (source).
  • In mid-2017, the Hepatitis A outbreak killed 20 people, and sickened hundreds of others — two-thirds of which were homeless  — becoming national news (source).

Mission: Quickly 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, local philanthropists Peter Seidler and Dan Shea, among others, 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 would house up to 250 San Diegans in each shelter by the end of 2017. Read Full Story (link here)
  • 2020 Covid-19 Update: Dubbed “Operation Shelter to Home,” the temporary repurposing of Golden Hall and the San Diego Convention Center in the City of San Diego as shelters will support a broader regional approach to address homelessness during this state of emergency. The bridge facilities have been temporary cleared out due to density of congregate spaces (bunk beds were not compliant with recommended CDC social distancing guidelines) (more info).
  • As of January 2021, plans are in place to move residents back into bridge facilities following CDC design guidelines. There are no plans to build additional interim shelters (such as the Sprung Structures).


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: A winter shelter facility was previously erected on the dead-end street.

Use Arrangement: Street is owned by the City.

Site Selection Criteria Considerations: Years before, the dead-end cul-de-sac was in use as a temporary winter shelter facility (using an older, less durable tent structure).

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 developed 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*$2.0 million$500k site prep (no utility connections) paid by City + $1.5 million for Sprung Structure facility paid by Lucky Duck Foundation, used by the City at no charge.
Cost Per Bed*$6k/bed324 beds in total (bunk-bed capacity)
Operating Costs*~$6.2 million/year-Varies annually: San Diego Housing Commission (SDHC) reserves and a federal Moving to Work grant, in addition to City general funds, and State HEAP, HHAP emergency grants.
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 Structures 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 Structures for the 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

  • 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.
  • Prior state funds for emergency shelters were provided by the 2018-enacted HEAP funding allocations (link).


Lead Deal CoordinatorDownload Housing Innovation Collaborative 

The City Of San Diego Logo 200x200 1 Housing Innovation Collaborative

San Diego Housing Commission and City of San Diego
Philanthropic FunderLucky Duck Foundation Processed B92ccf7ad25ca26fc5a094367afa50170b4c1bd1a1da8ffd90e8f396b8ee36f5 Logo Housing Innovation CollaborativeLucky Duck Foundation – Purchased two of the three interim shelter structures, the third purchased by City of San Diego.
Community EngagementThe City Of San Diego Logo 200x200 1 Housing Innovation Collaborative 

Alpha Project Logo Large Housing Innovation Collaborative

City of San Diego + Alpha Project
Construction Management + Onsite AssemblyThe City Of San Diego Logo 200x200 1 Housing Innovation CollaborativeSan Diego City’s General Services and City Facilities Depts
Shelter Vendor / ManufacturerDownload 1 Housing Innovation CollaborativeSprung Structure


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:

Alpha Project Logo Large Housing Innovation Collaborative

OperatorAlpha 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.

AgreementThe San Diego Housing Commission Board of Commissioners, San Diego’s City Council, and the San Diego Housing Authority authorized the execution of agreements for the operation of the City’s Temporary Bridge Shelters and continue to be reviewed and approved annually – see notes for additional detail.
  • 50 day-shift workers
  • ~6.5 clients/residents per residential coordinator
  • Shelter Manager
  • Program Supervisor
  • Logistic Coordinators
  • Case Managers
  • Security
  • Janitorial
  • Back-end Admin
Services ProvidedAlpha 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.
  • In November 2017, SD Housing Commission Board of Commissioners, SD City Council, and SD 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.


Additional Sites

Father Joe’s Villages’ Bridge Housing

14th & Commercial St.

Opened January 2018.

Occupancy: 128 beds.

Site Owner: Father Joe’s Villages

Site Use Arrangement: The site is no longer operating as a bridge shelter, however, it was used as an interim shelter site for two years – 2018-2019 – during pre-development of a new 14-story, 407 unit 100% affordable housing project, which is now currently under construction and expected to be completed by 2021. Sprung Structure used at the site was relocated to the 17th & Imperial Site – detail below.

Funding Source: Varies annually, largely funded by City of San Diego General Fund, CA State Emergency Grants (HEAP and HHAP), administered by San Diego Housing Commission. City purchased one of the three Sprung Structures, which was moved to Imperial site (below).

Operator: Father Joe’s Villages, San Diego’s largest homeless services provider. Established in 1950 to serve San Diegans experiencing homelessness and poverty, Father Joe’s Villages has grown from its chapel in Downtown San Diego, to now include a comprehensive campus and scattered-site programs that house over 2,000 people nightly.




Veteran’s Village San Diego (VVSD) Bridge Housing

17th & Imperial Ave

Opened November 2019. The operator, Veterans Village of San Diego (VVSD), was operating a bridge shelter in San Diego’s Midway District on U.S. Navy property, prior to donating the tent to Chula Vista and upgrading facilities to current Sprung Shelter at this new site.

Occupancy: 128 beds (same, relocated shelter as above)

Site Owner: Private party.

Site Use Arrangement: Land leased to the City of San Diego (Lease Notes). City has an operating agreement with Veterans Village of San Diego to operate on-site case management and maintenance of the site.

Funding Source:

  • Upfront: Site intended for longer time use and therefore, City spent ~$1 million for utility connections, which saves money over long-run, compared to monthly water and septic services
  • Operations: Varies annually, largely funded by City of San Diego General Fund, CA State Emergency Grants (HEAP and HHAP), administered by San Diego Housing Commission. City purchased one of the three Sprung Structures, which was moved from 14th & Commercial to this site in 2019.

Operator: Veterans Village of San Diego. Veterans Village of San Diego (VVSD) is a non-profit organization that has served all veterans since 1981 and is dedicated to “Leave No One Behind.” With five locations throughout San Diego County, VVSD is the only program of its kind in the United States and is nationally recognized as the leader in serving homeless military veterans. Each year, VVSD provides services to more than 3,000 military veterans throughout the County of San Diego; programs include Housing, Employment, Rehabilitation, and Mental Health services.