From SignOnSanDiego.com, Hailey Persinger, 30 Oct 2011.
CARLSBAD — Carlsbad’s shelter for homeless men has received the green light to more than double its capacity.
The City Council’s unanimous vote last week came nearly 20 years after the first council vote on the Catholic Charities’ La Posada de Guadalupe Shelter. That vote in 1991 paved the way for up to 50 male farmworkers to move out of their encampments in area canyons and move into a shelter where they eat hot meals, take warm showers and sleep under a roof.
Tuesday’s council approval will expand the shelter so it can house up to 120 men.
The two-phase, $2.9 million project will require the demolition of the shelter’s three existing buildings and the creation of two new dormitories in a three-acre corner of an industrial park on Impala Drive. Showers, a courtyard and laundry stations also are slated to be part of the new shelter.
It’s been about five years since Catholic Charities started moving toward the expansion but it has been a dream of the shelter’s operators since the doors first opened for men who were displaced as local governments began to raze farmworker encampments in North County, including one on the shores of Agua Hedionda Lagoon.
Tom Maddox, board president for Caring Residents of Carlsbad, one of the shelter’s primary fundraisers, said last week that a permanent solution for North County’s homeless farmworkers and others had been a long time coming.
“We made that long journey that finally brought us here,” Maddox said.
The journey, however, isn’t over quite yet.
Despite $800,000 in state grant money and intense fundraising by Caring Residents and other groups, the shelter has asked the city to defer the payment date of its permit and construction fees until the project is complete. Mayor Matt Hall said last week that the council would refer back to city staff members on deferment of the fees. A decision has not yet been made.
Sister RaMonda DuVall, executive director of Catholic Charities, said the fees, along with the two-phase building schedule, have made the cost of shelter construction jump from an estimated $1.4 million to nearly $3 million.
“We’re about $400,000 over in construction costs at this time but we keep sharpening the pencil and going back,” DuVall said.
Fees and required modifications to the shelter’s plan include a water runoff plan, a driveway and landscaping, which total about $215,000. For now, the shelter plans to look to the federal Community Development Block Grant program to cover the fees and permit costs, DuVall said.
Construction of the new shelter is set to be completed some time next year.
The current shelter will stay open during the work.
Residents can stay at the shelter for a maximum of three months as they do assigned chores, take classes — such as anger management, if needed — get sober and try to find jobs. Residents typically stay two months but can be granted a 30-day extension at the shelter if staff members deem it necessary.
Men have come in and out of the shelter throughout the years as area governments and law enforcement agencies cracked down on encampments in canyons near where the men work in factories or on farms.
In Carlsbad, some of the men worked in the city’s acclaimed flower fields during the day and returned to their camps along the shores of Agua Hedionda Lagoon, where they lived under tarps and used the lagoon to bathe.
In 2004, after state officials found the lagoon water to be polluted by human waste and bacteria, they required Carlsbad police to move the camp’s residents or close the lagoon. City Councilman Keith Blackburn, a retired police sergeant, was charged then with helping the men find new shelter. La Posada de Guadalupe stepped in during those times, he said.
“I got a lot of help, and one of the ideas was farmworker housing,” he said. “It went through a lot of different stages, and it took on a lot of different colors, but the point is, La Posada de Guadalupe was there.”
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