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San Diego Region Secures $7.1M in State Funds for COVID-19 Homeless Response

Resources Will Support Emergency Shelter and Services at Convention Center

Tuesday, April 7, 2020 - NEWS RELEASE

SAN DIEGO – Continuing to take swift action to shelter and house San Diegans amid the COVID-19 pandemic, today Mayor Kevin L. Faulconer and the City Council secured $3.7 million in state emergency funding to help prevent the spread of the virus among the homeless population. The move followed work between the mayor’s office and state legislators — including Senate President Pro Tempore Toni Atkins, Assemblymember Todd Gloria and Assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez — to make state funds available to San Diego.

This grows the total additional resources directed to “Operation Shelter to Home” at the San Diego Convention Center to $7.1 million when combined with state-backed emergency funds from the County of San Diego and the Regional Task Force on the Homeless (RTFH), which have partnered with the City on the extraordinary effort to temporarily repurpose the convention center as a regional homeless shelter.

By Thursday more than 800 people experiencing homelessness will have moved into the convention center, marking a stunning transformation for the iconic building that stood empty just a week ago. Today clients from Father Joe’s Villages Paul Mirabile Center and Golden Hall began transitioning to the once-busy tourist destination, freeing up space for homeless individuals with medical needs to move the Mirabile shelter on Imperial Avenue.

Mayor Faulconer addressed the City Council before the vote to emphasize the convention center is part of a new, system-wide, coordinated regional approach to help sheltered and unsheltered individuals remain healthy during the COVID-19 crisis.

The City has also reached an agreement with the County, RTFH and the San Diego Housing Commission (SDHC) detailing roles, responsibilities and financial terms for Operation Shelter to Home. The City will act as the fiscal agent for its $3.7 million grant and will also manage approximately $1.6 million from the County and approximately $1.7 million from the RTFH.

Eligible uses for the state funding include but are not limited to:

  • Increasing Shelter Capacity – support for growing shelter space and the acquisition of new shelters
  • Hotels for COVID-19 Isolation – support for the acquisition or lease of hotels, motels, trailers and other alternative isolation placements
  • Emergency Shelter Operations – furnishings, supplies, and equipment needed to maintain a sanitary environment for clients and staff
  • Street Outreach – supplies and equipment needed to meet the urgent physical needs of unsheltered people and to protect staff from COVID-19
  • Providing Transportation – support for the transportation of those experiencing homelessness to and from shelters and medical care
  • Adding Staffing – support for additional staff for infectious disease preparedness and case management for clients

What People Are Saying:

"The convention center has undergone a remarkable transformation in just a few days, becoming an extraordinary symbol of San Diego rising to this occasion and using every resource at our disposal to fight COVID-19. I want to thank our state lawmakers for taking quick action to support our regional efforts to provide more shelter space, medical monitoring, and eventually a permanent home for San Diego's homeless population." – Mayor Kevin L. Faulconer

“This critical and immediate infusion of $7.1 million in emergency state funding will help the San Diego community to combat homelessness, especially during this pandemic. Operation Shelter to Home is more than a shelter, it’s also a path to resources and permanent housing. I’m proud to be part of the collaborative effort to prioritize the most vulnerable among us. San Diego has a real opportunity to make a long-lasting impact on the lives of thousands.” – Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins

“These state emergency funds are the result of bipartisan, unanimous legislation to combat the coronavirus and keep Californians safe. I am proud that we have helped bring these dollars home for San Diego and they will be used to protect the health and safety of San Diegans experiencing homelessness during this time. Now more than ever, it is imperative that we care for each other because we are all in this together.” – Assemblymember Todd Gloria

“We know this crisis has put the unsheltered at special risk and it has decimated the local tourism economy. The funding we authorized at the state level helps fight back on both these issues — providing shelter for our most vulnerable while also putting many Convention Center employees back to work.” – Assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez

Protecting Health and Safety

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 convention center. Clients and staff are screened daily by temperature check and verbal questionnaire from homeless service providers or San Diego County Public Health Nurses. 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 County nurse or other assigned medical personnel to determine whether they should be transferred to an on-site isolation area, off-site isolation or a medical treatment facility for significant severe symptoms.

Swift Action to Stop the Spread

The convention center was repurposed into a temporary shelter in a matter of days, and agencies began moving individuals there last week starting with clients from the City’s bridge shelters. Regional agencies in March moved homeless families from City shelters and those in a high-risk category to motel rooms secured by the County for use by the RTFH. The lower level of Golden Hall was also opened briefly in March while the convention center was brought online.

Operation Shelter to Home reduces the potential for spread among San Diego’s homeless population by creating more shelter space at the convention center, allowing room between individuals per guidelines from public health officials, and centralizing limited shelter staff.

A Focus on Housing

Under Operation Shelter to Home, case managers and housing navigators are focused on finding housing for individuals as well as sheltering them. Teams work to transition people into permanent housing, with the goal of ultimately reducing the number of individuals experiencing homelessness in San Diego.

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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