"I don't think anyone has dealt with the human cost involved," said Dixon, who opposes the ballpark. "My concern is there's no plan to serve the unserved." The environmental impact report states only 100 homeless people would be further uprooted. However, more than 500 homeless inhabit East Village, according to the Regional Task Force on the Homeless -- an estimate reinforced by observation of dozens of people sleeping under awnings, in empty lots, against warehouse walls, and near railroad tracks.
The EIR proposes forming a committee to make recommendations for the displaced homeless, with no mention of funding. The report concludes, "Impacts of displaced homeless on surrounding areas would be considered significant and unmitigated."
The baseball stadium isn't solely to blame for such displacement. For years neighborhood groups and the Centre City Development Corp. have pressured downtown churches and nonprofit organizations to stop feeding the hungry and to curtail emergency services. The Rescue Mission responded in 1996 by creating long-term residential programs emphasizing rehabilitation and education. Under Brunk, the mission beefed up its board and hired people with college degrees and clinical experience. By serving breakfast instead of dinner, the men's shelter reduced loitering, lines, and litter.
With or without the ballpark, development would eventually precipitate an urban migration of charities, said Bill Radatz, chairperson of the Metropolitan Area Providers of Social Services. "The mood is: We're going to regentrify downtown. We're going to reclaim downtown. The cost of real estate will go up. It will force social service agencies to leave the neighborhood," Radatz said. "My fear is the city will ignore the problem, and the homeless won't get any attention."
Leslie Wade, executive director of the East Village Association, a group of residents and business owners, said the 26-square-block neighborhood has become San Diego's "warehouse district of the less fortunate." During the 1970s and '80s, the Centre City Development Corp. banished the Salvation Army, St. Vincent de Paul, and other charities to the East Village to upgrade the Gaslamp Quarter. (Moose McGillycuddy's now occupies the former Rescue Mission on Fifth Avenue.) The consequent high concentration of agencies -- at least 14 -- in the East Village has hindered development there, in Wade's opinion. Every night emergency and transitional shelters house about 1750 people who would otherwise be homeless, according to the EIR. Counseling, medical care, free meals, and other services attract hundreds more to East Village.
The association advocates disbursing social service agencies into smaller facilities throughout San Diego. By hastening the exodus of nonprofits, Wade said, the stadium might force the city to improve how the needy are served without burdening any one neighborhood. "NIMBYism is the number-one hurdle," Wade said, referring to the "Not in my backyard!" syndrome.
Sensitive to the notion charities act as magnets to hordes of homeless, Jackson is eager to explain the mission's work. This month he's scheduled to give Padres officials a tour of the facilities along with his pitch.
"We're not here to create controversy. We're here to solve problems," Jackson said, noting the mission isn't merely about providing free meals. Its year-long residential program helps hundreds of men and women overcome chemical addictions and learn new work skills. "We're returning to society people who are clean and sober, people who will contribute, hold down jobs, pay taxes, and vote. If we weren't here doing this kind of work, there would be an enormous cost to the public."
As he meets neighbors, community leaders, business owners, and bureaucrats, Jackson educates them about the changing face of homelessness. "Our client is no longer the old, white, alcoholic male who's drunk on skid row." In San Diego County alone, 26 percent of the homeless are women and children, 25 percent are labeled "severely mentally challenged," and another 32 percent are chemically dependent. Nationwide, 18 percent of the homeless have jobs.
What distinguishes the Rescue Mission from most other nonprofits is its religious message, specifically, eternal salvation through Jesus Christ. "We're not coercive about our religion," Jackson said, "but it permeates everything we do." Passages from the New Testament and Hebrew Bible adorn walls of the men's and women's shelters. Residents attend Bible study classes.
No one is turned away based on religious background or lack of it, Jackson said. "Hedonism may be the most popular religious belief here. There are folks who go through our program and aren't affected by our religious teachings at all. What they do see is that there's a value, a structure and power in religious commitment that can change a person from the inside out."
Shunning government grants and tax dollars to spread its word, the San Diego Rescue Mission relies on private donations totaling about $2.5 million a year. It also receives goods and services valued at about $1.1 million. Sales from two thrift shops cover administrative expenses, so donors' contributions go directly to people in need.
Clients are in various stages of recovery, and not everyone completes the program. Sherrie Clowers, 35, a resident in the women's shelter, said she craved spiritual guidance after having been imprisoned for drug possession. With the mission's help, she plans to attend nursing school and return to her family.
Joe Pecoraro, 44, said he left the men's shelter several months ago to resume collecting welfare. He is also panhandling again and uses the proceeds to buy beer. (Maintaining sobriety and giving up government assistance are requirements of residency.) Pecoraro says he remains fond of the mission and eats breakfast there every day.
In contrast, Bart Henry's experience was nothing short of awful. Henry, 34, had run out of money shortly after moving to San Diego from New York early this year. "I went to the mission to find a place to stay. The reaction was, 'What do you think this is, a hotel?' I asked for a blanket, and they pointed to the sign: No blankets here. I sat on the steps under the awning, and it started to rain. They said, 'Get off the curb.'" Like other nonprofits downtown, the mission is hamstrung by the city's rules, which limit emergency services. Ironically, some charities are in the awkward position of seeming uncharitable just to keep their conditional-use permits and reduce neighbors' complaints.