Salvation Army San Diego Rady Center project aims to be a ‘Beacon of Hope’

Salvation Army San Diego Rady Center project aims to be a ‘Beacon of Hope’

As the site plan for The Salvation Army San Diego Rady Center comes together—and with the deadline to meet the goal for funding from the community looming—those who’ve been shepherding the project forward are already envisioning the many ways the facility will help support men and women in need.

“The project is shaping up nicely,” said Lt. Col. Lee Lescano, the Rady Project Manager for The Salvation Army Southern California Division. “The vision of the downtown San Diego Rady Center is to provide transformational shelter and support for individuals experiencing homelessness and will be a beacon of hope for residents and the surrounding community.”

Lescano added that the proposed 200,000-square-foot facility and adjoining campus will provide a continuum of care, from short-term housing to permanent supportive and affordable housing, addressing many of the situations which contribute to people finding themselves without housing.

Lescano has been working closely with Divisional Secretaries for San Diego County Majors Amy and Rob Reardon, San Diego Homeless Services Director Megan Dowell and architects Mark Steele and Joseph Wong along with the Wakeland Housing and Development Corporation team on the design of the Rady Center so that it will have a welcoming, campus-like feel—and will be friendly to surrounding neighbors—by considering everything from parking to accessibility to safety.

Importantly, the unique partnership with Wakeland has enabled them to add low-income housing to the project as well as space for transitional or interim housing and community engagement.

“We’re constantly building and evolving our relationship and partnership,” said Peter Armstrong, Vice President of Real Estate Development at Wakeland, who brings two decades of experience in the field of community development and affordable housing to the project. “Over the last year, our partnership has gotten deeper, and we’ve gotten to know each other better as we’ve moved from something conceptual to something grounded in reality. It’s been really exciting to see.”

Armstrong said that a big mission-oriented project like this one requires funding support from community members as well as local and state government partners, such as the city and county of San Diego, and applications for funding are in progress.

“That’s what determines the schedule to start construction and ultimately finish and move people in,” he said. “We have a wonderful project, but we’re competing against other important projects as well.”

Lescano said the latest goal is to complete the $30 million capital campaign by the middle of 2024, and they hope to break ground by December 2024 or early 2025.

“The Salvation Army knows that helping men and women reclaim their dignity is key to their ability to make transformational changes to their lives,” he added. “The Rady Center will provide a community-like secure atmosphere where individuals feel valued and supported. By addressing their immediate needs and helping them to develop essential life skills, the Rady Center staff will help residents restore their self-worth and plan for a way out of homelessness.”

The need for these services is overwhelming, Armstrong said, citing the latest figures in the area: for every 100 people who will be housed at the Rady Center, there are 125 more who will become homeless every month.

The latest point-in-time count released in June by the San Diego Regional Task Force on Homelessness showed more than 10,000 San Diegans are without shelter, an increase of 14 percent from last year’s count. Nearly half of them (46 percent) report experiencing chronic homelessness.

And while the generous gift of $30 million by the Radys will provide for a large operating endowment that will ensure sustainability, Lescano, Armstrong and team are eager to see what could be possible once the $30 million goal is achieved and the additional $5 million contribution to the endowment from Ernest and Evelyn Rady is received.

“We need the financial support of those in San Diego County,” Lescano said. “And the prayer support of everyone.”

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Kristin Marguerite Doidge

Kristin Marguerite Doidge is a freelance writer based in Los Angeles.