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San Diego Opens Giant Tents for Homeless to Battle Hepatitis A Outbreak

Verna Vasbinder prepares her new bunk in the city's new Temporary Bridge Shelter for the homeless as her dog, Lucy Lui, looks on, Dec. 1, 2017, in San Diego. The first of three shelters opened Friday, which will eventually provide beds for up to 700 people, as the city struggles to control a homeless crisis gripping the region.

The U.S. city of San Diego has opened the first of three large tents that together will house 700 homeless people in an effort to contain an outbreak of hepatitis A that is being spread among the homeless population.

About 20 people made the tent their temporary home Friday. The first tent erected will house 350 single men and women. The other two tents, which will open later this month, will be for families and veterans.

Bob McElroy of the Alpha Project, the nonprofit group that is operating the tent that opened Friday, said he expects the tent to be filled to capacity by the middle of next week.

City officials are using the tents as a way to get people off the streets where they have been living in such poor conditions that it has led to one of the worst outbreaks of hepatitis A in years. The disease, which is spread through feces, has left 20 people dead and sent hundreds to the hospital.

The new tents will provide a range of services to the homeless, including help with mental health issues, addiction and employment. The tent grounds also include portable showers and toilets.

The tents are not the first of their kind in the city. Officials had previously erected two large tents as winter shelters but took them down two years ago and moved the residents to a local shelter.