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    The proposed relocation of the San Diego Rescue Mission to the old Harbor View Medical building, located at 120 Elm St., just east of I-5 at First Street in downtown San Diego, is meeting opposition from the Little Italy organization, among nine plaintiffs who have filed a lawsuit.

    On Sept. 10, an injunction was issued to stop the remodeling of the facility and court hearing will be held on Oct. 3.

    “This is not an issue of compassion, but rather of control,” states the Little Italy Association. “We will not allow our public rights of way to be dominated by those who contribute little, if anything, to our community.”

    Especially concerned about a former Rescue Mission plan of feeding breakfast daily to 100-300 homeless people, the Little Italy website quotes a letter from Clint Griffin to his City Council representative as saying, “One of the biggest concerns expressed by many of the people who live, work, or attend school in the area was: Where are the homeless and street people going to go after they have breakfast in the morning? There is every reason to believe that they will congregate within the general area or migrate across the freeway to Little Italy to the west, north to Bankers Hill, east to Balboa Park, south to the Gaslamp Quarter, or just remain in the general area.”

    “Even though it is only one of the things we do, our community breakfast program seems to draw a lot of attention,” Keith Hammond replied. “To prevent the unlikely possibility that the area would suddenly become flooded with homeless people, the City Council has asked us to feed only 50 people breakfast three days a week for the first nine months. They also put into place ways for us to increase that number as we show our responsibility. In Matthew 25 Jesus commands us to feed the poor and we were glad the city created a responsible way for us to do that.”

    “After our community breakfast in the morning, some will go to work,” he said. “Some will leave to see caseworkers, some will enter our long-term program, and still others will retreat into the shadows. The vast majority of homeless people want to be left alone and are not going to make the trek all the way to Little Italy or other busy areas to do window-shopping.”

    “Anyone who is further concerned about the possibility can sign an agreement with the police, allowing them to enter their property to remove people who loiter. We have shared this with our neighborhood advisory council, which has representatives from the surrounding neighborhoods.”

    Hammond said that Rescue Mission has been working very hard to be at peace with their neighbors. “We have formed a neighborhood advisory committee that includes many people who have spoken against us to create a civil forum for us to communicate,” he explained. “We’ve hired neighborhood ambassadors who already pick-up loose trash and encourage those who loiter to move on. We even reached a court-mediated settlement that was approved by their representative that these plaintiffs later rejected.”

    Jim Jackson, president of the Mission, areeed: “The Mission has worked diligently with the city and the surrounding neighborhood for over two years to relocate our facilities to a single site that allows us to effectively minister to the many needs of the homeless at no cost to the citizens of San Diego. In fact, the Mission’s services have been estimated to save taxpayers over $50 million a year,” he said.

    “We sold our properties in the downtown Ballpark District after the City Council approved our new home,” he continued, “and have invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in the rehabilitation of a neglected building, and were preparing to move into our new home in November 2003. There is no going back. The SDRM will be homeless by the end of this year if we do not appeal to reason, fairness and compassion.”

    Will our neighborhoods be safer then? Not according to Jackson. “Over 500 homeless men, women and children who rely on our services will be left to roam the streets of downtown San Diego at the peak of the holiday season looking for food, shelter and comfort. It is a civic scandal.”

    “We are trusting in God’s promises found in Isaiah 58 about protecting those who help the poor,” Hammond concluded.                                — Simone Carr

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