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After Moving Hundreds from Shelters to Convention Center, Outreach Teams Bring in Homeless Individuals Off Streets

Mayor Announces Next Phase of Operation Shelter to Home

Tuesday, April 15, 2020 - NEWS RELEASE

SAN DIEGO – After successfully relocating hundreds from city shelters into one of San Diego’s most iconic buildings, outreach teams are now working to bring individuals living on the streets into the convention center to provide safe and sanitary living conditions amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Between Friday and Tuesday, more than 85 unsheltered homeless individuals have moved into the convention center as part of Operation Shelter to Home.

Mayor Kevin L. Faulconer was joined today by Alpha Project President and CEO Bob McElroy and Father Joe’s Villages President and CEO Deacon Jim Vargas – two of the three service providers assisting clients at the convention center – to talk about this next phase in Operation Shelter to Home.

"We repurposed the convention center to address this health crisis now, and to reduce the number of people experiencing homelessness going forward," Mayor Faulconer said. "After successfully moving hundreds from our shelters to the convention center, we're starting the next phase by welcoming people off the streets through our coordinated outreach program. The goal is to get people indoors and then get them into a permanent home."

Coordinated outreach teams are now engaging with people living outdoors to offer them shelter appropriate to their condition, whether it be at the convention center, a motel room or another option. Partner agencies include the City’s Homeless Outreach Teams, Downtown San Diego Partnership, Regional Task Force on the Homeless, County Health and Human Services Agency, PATH, and service providers. The effort is similar to the approach used when City bridge shelters were first opened in 2017. It follows proven practices local agencies normally use to engage unsheltered homeless individuals.

"So far everything is going really well at the Convention Center. All of our residents are following the protocols and everyone is staying safe," McElroy said. "We are happy that street outreach will be going out in order to provide housing opportunities to those that are unsheltered."

Operation Shelter to Home launched on April 1 by moving individuals already in shelters into the convention center to allow for proper physical distancing to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. Because the effects of the pandemic were creating staffing challenges at the City’s various shelters, the program also centralized staff in one place to ensure personnel could be efficient even with limited numbers.

Families and people with chronic health conditions have been moved into hotel rooms secured by San Diego County for use by the Regional Task Force on the Homeless or into Father Joe’s Paul Mirabile Center to receive care from medical support staff.

“There is no silver bullet to defeating COVID-19. Rather, it is the various preventative measures we are all taking that make the difference," Deacon Vargas said. "By opening the convention center to those on the streets and offering them access to basic hygiene, supportive services and medical care, as well as providing appropriate distancing, we are affording them the same means to protect themselves that we all take for granted. This is simply the right and prudent thing to do."

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

Proper hygiene, sanitation and health monitoring are just a few of the precautionary measures being taken to prevent the spread of illness within the shelter in the convention center. All new clients are screened for symptoms of any illness prior to intake, and clients and staff at the convention center are screened daily by temperature check and verbal questionnaire. 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 San Diego County Public Health Nurse or other assigned medical personnel, who will determine the need to transfer to an on-site isolation area, off-site isolation or a medical treatment facility for significant and severe symptoms.

For 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 sandiego.gov/coronavirus.

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

A statewide “Stay-at-Home” order is in effect until April 30. For more information on the order, including what’s closed, what’s open and which industries are exempted by the state, please visit COVID19.ca.gov.

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