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Homelessness Strategies and Solutions

Over 800 Moved to San Diego Convention Center as More Homeless Individuals Relocate

Hundreds Moved in Less Than a Week as “Operation Shelter to Home” Protects and Houses San Diego’s Homeless

Tuesday, April 7, 2020 - NEWS RELEASE

SAN DIEGO – Less than one week after Mayor Kevin L. Faulconer and regional leaders opened the iconic San Diego Convention Center to protect homeless individuals from COVID-19, more than 800 individuals from City shelters will have moved into the iconic building by Wednesday.

Today Mayor Faulconer, Councilmember Chris Ward and Father Joe’s Villages President and CEO Deacon Jim Vargas announced the final planned move of sheltered individuals to the convention center. 

“We have an obligation to protect our fellow homeless San Diegans from COVID-19 as best we can during this global pandemic. We are going to have over 800 individuals at the Convention Center with proper physical distancing between them something that would have been impossible in our current shelters," Mayor Faulconer said. "The next step will be to start bringing in folks who are living on the street right now to provide them the same protection and, of course, the ultimate goal is to identify housing solutions for everyone. We can and we will change lives for the better as a result of this emergency crisis.”

Along with more than 200 individuals from Father Joe’s Paul Mirabile Center (PMC), persons currently staying in the lower level of Golden Hall will also be moved to the convention center in the coming days. Those with chronic health conditions will be placed at the nearly vacated Father Joe’s PMC facility where medical support staff can assist them. These new moves help centralize services and maximize staffing to continue to provide optimal service to clients. With much more space than current shelter facilities, the convention center allows for adequate physical distancing between individuals per guidelines from public health officials.

“The exceptional work of front line service partners and essential workers during this pandemic are an extraordinary testament to our community's commitment to our most vulnerable,” Councilmember Ward said. "This week alone more than 800 individuals will move into the Convention Center, an action that will save lives and allow for appropriate physical distancing across our established shelters.”

One of the core missions of “Operation Shelter to Home” is to find permanent housing for individuals. Case managers and housing navigators will be focused on identifying the most appropriate exit strategy for shelter clients and working to quickly end their cycle of homelessness, with the goal of ultimately reducing the number of individuals experiencing homelessness in San Diego.

Announced March 23, repurposing the convention center is part of a new, system-wide, coordinated plan to further help sheltered and unsheltered individuals remain healthy during the global pandemic. It supports a broader regional approach to address homelessness during this state of emergency.

Individuals are being moved in a phased approach to ensure needs and resources are scaled appropriately. This marks the third phase of relocations following moves over the past week from three of the City’s bridge shelters operated by Alpha Project and Veterans Village of San Diego. Once all groups are settled and physical distancing requirements have been met, capacity will be assessed to intake unsheltered San Diegans.

"Working together, the City, County and service providers have taken a great step today to protect the health of people most in need in San Diego," Vargas said. "The Convention Center intervention demonstrates the true impact we can have when innovation, leadership and compassion come together. Father Joe's Villages looks forward to extending our key role in the community while providing critical services at the new shelter."

Proper hygiene, sanitation and monitoring of individuals are just a few of the precautionary measures being taken to prevent the spread of illness within the temporary shelter. Clients and staff are being screened daily by temperature check and verbal questionnaire by homeless service providers or San Diego Public Health Nurses (PHN). They are also instructed to wash and sanitize their hands upon each re-entry into the facility.

Persons exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19 will be evaluated by a San Diego County PHN or other assigned medical personnel for a determination of the need to transfer to an on-site isolation area, off-site isolation or a medical treatment facility for significant severe symptoms.

For information regarding COVID-19 cases and directives from County of San Diego public health officials, please visit Text “COSD COVID19” to 468-311 for text alert updates.

For the updates on City of San Diego services, programs, links to helpful information and steps the public can take to help reduce the spread of the disease, please visit