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Mayor, City Attorney to Use Transformed Motel to Help Homeless Families

Recently Completed Project for Future Drug Diversion Program Good Fit for Families in Need During Covid-19

Tuesday, May 26, 2020 - NEWS RELEASE

San Diego – Continuing efforts to protect San Diego’s most vulnerable residents during a global pandemic, Mayor Kevin L. Faulconer and City Attorney Mara W. Elliott today announced plans to use a transformed Super 8 motel in the Egger Highlands community to temporarily serve families and children experiencing homelessness amid COVID-19.

The City’s purchase and transformation of the run-down motel on Palm Avenue was approved by the City Council in July 2017. The new transitional housing units will eventually be used to serve individuals enrolled in the San Diego Misdemeanants At-Risk Track (S.M.A.R.T.) program, a diversion program created by the City Attorney’s Office for chronic misdemeanor offenders with acute drug addiction and complex social service needs. With renovations recently being completed, the units will provide a temporary housing solution for homeless families and children during the pandemic.

“We’re looking at every opportunity to help those families and children experiencing homelessness during these trying times,” Mayor Faulconer said. “The rehabilitation of this motel couldn’t come at a better time as the need for temporary shelter has never been greater. I want to thank City Attorney Elliott for partnering with me to provide safety and relief to so many families as we fight to stop the spread of this deadly virus.”

In March, the City began moving families and children already in shelters to motel rooms to allow for proper physical distancing, centralize staff and prevent the spread of COVID-19. While families went to motel rooms secured by the County for the Regional Task Force on the Homeless, single men and women were relocated to the San Diego Convention Center as part of Operation Shelter to Home. Since that time, the City and San Diego Housing Commission have provided shelter and services to families on a case-by-case basis, but the City has sought additional solutions for families.

“During this challenging time, it's more important than ever to ensure our most vulnerable community members are protected,” City Attorney Elliott said. “I am gratified to be able to transition our S.M.A.R.T. on Palm facility to provide temporary emergency housing for families in this time of dire need.”

Following the Palm Avenue motel’s transformation, the new facility has:

  • 42 transitional housing rooms – 39 double-bed standard units and three units that meet Americans with Disability Act standards
  • One manager unit
  • Administrative offices, meeting and training rooms, and a reception area
  • Shared kitchen and communal spaces
  • Fitness room
  • Outdoor areas for meditation and gardening
  • Laundry facilities

To lower costs for the building and meet climate action goals, the project was designed with a zero net energy goal with solar panels installed on the roof and parking area.

The Palm Avenue transitional housing complex is configured in a way that allows families the ability to practice physical distancing from other households. The City will require that the facility be used in a manner that incorporates public health guidance on preventing the spread of COVID-19. Some shared and communal spaces may not be fully utilized per current public health guidelines.

Alpha Project of San Diego, which currently has contracts with the City to serve families at another City-owned interim housing complex, has agreed to continue to serve families at the Palm Avenue site. Alpha Project is also serving more than 600 individuals staying at Operation Shelter to Home at the Convention Center.

“The streets are no place for kids and families to live. Alpha Project has worked to provide a safe, sanitary place for families before COVID-19 and will continue to do so during this pandemic,” said Bob McElroy, President and CEO of Alpha Project. “This new facility gives us space to help even more folks while they make the transition from the streets to a new permanent home.”

The facility is anticipated to return to its intended use for the S.M.A.R.T. diversion program by January 2021.

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