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Nonprofit unveils vision to transform run-down spaces into housing for San Diego’s neighbors in need.

Today, Father Joe’s Villages announced its enterprising plan to bring much-needed housing to San Diego by breathing new life into unused lots and overlooked buildings, including the transformation of motels into apartments. Through Turning the Key: Unlocking a Brighter San Diego, Father Joe’s Villages will add 2,000 units of affordable housing dedicated to people overcoming homelessness. The organization says its plan will address the largest barrier to solving homelessness in San Diego.

“With over 1,000 people sleeping on the streets of downtown on any given night, now is the time to forge bold solutions,” said Father Joe’s Villages President and CEO Deacon Jim Vargas. “San Diego currently has the lowest rental vacancy rate in the country, and the average rent for a one-bedroom apartment is over $1,700. Our homelessness crisis will not be resolved until we create more housing that people can afford. We see how transforming underused lots and disregarded motels into thousands of housing units across the county can be that foundation for change.”

Father Joe’s Villages’ Turning the Key incorporates sites throughout San Diego, with the majority (approximately two-thirds) of the units outside of downtown. The organization expects the 2,000 units to provide homes to approximately 2,500-plus people as follows:

  • Motel renovation in areas outside of downtown (1240 total units at locations to be announced later)
  • 5th & Ash (175 units)
  • 14th & Commercial (418 units)
  • 17th & Commercial (125 units)
  • Bishop Maher Center at 15th & Commercial (42 units)

Through Turning the Key’s new apartments, Father Joe’s Villages says it will help more seniors, veterans, families, transition-age youth, people with disabilities and people with limited income. Vargas adds that a key component to the program’s long-term success includes pairing a place to live with tailored services to help individuals maintain housing stability. This means that Father Joe’s Villages’ new housing will provide comprehensive supportive services to ensure that people have what they need to stay housed.

“Through 67 years of helping people who are homeless in San Diego, Father Joe’s Villages has found that unlocking solutions requires more than just a place to call home,” says Ed Witt, a chairman of the Father Joe’s Villages board of directors and owner of Witt Lincoln. Vargas adds, “Sleeping on the street is often the final leg of an otherwise complicated path of unpredictable circumstances. Turning the Key makes easily accessible supportive services a core component to tackling these underlying issues and creates lasting self-sufficiency for each individual.”

Turning the Key will be funded through a public-private partnership that leverages existing public dollars and private contributions. The organization has already identified more than 75 percent of the $531 million needed to complete the construction. Eventually, says Vargas, the unique model will generate funds that Father Joe’s Villages will use to run the services associated with the housing.

Father Joe’s Villages expects to start renovations on some motel properties this year and to break ground on new buildings in 2018. The organization anticipates that people will begin moving into the converted motel units as early as mid-2018.

As a nonprofit organization, Father Joe’s Villages continues to rely on community support. To find ways to get involved and to donate to help end homelessness in San Diego, visit or call 1-800-HOMELESS to help ensure that all the people of San Diego shine.



As one of San Diego’s largest homeless services providers, Father Joe’s Villages has been empowering people to achieve self-sufficiency for 67 years. What started as a small chapel serving San Diego’s impoverished has grown into a cutting-edge provider of effective housing programs and services. Father Joe’s prepares up to 3,000 meals and works with nearly 1,900 individuals every day—from infants and adolescents to adults and seniors. This includes over 200 children and over 200 military veterans. As an industry thought-leader, Father Joe’s offers solutions to address the complex needs of the homeless, regardless of age, race, culture or beliefs. The organization’s primary goal is to transform lives and end homelessness in San Diego County. To this end, they provide housing, healthcare, food, clothing, education, job training and child development in an internationally modeled “one-stop-shop” approach. This mission is made possible only through the efforts of compassionate staff, dedicated volunteers, and generous public and private donors. For more information, please visit