HOUSING PROGRESS, PROPOSED HOTEL PURCHASES AND PLANS TO REACTIVATE THE CITY’S SHELTER SYSTEM WEIGH INTO TIMING DISCUSSION
Black & Magazine Newswire
SAN DIEGO – The City of San Diego’s Homelessness Strategies Division, the San Diego Housing Commission (SDHC) and the Regional Task Force on the Homeless (RTFH) presented an update to the San Diego City Council today on the progress of the emergency shelter established at the San Diego Convention Center during the COVID-19 pandemic. The presentation included options for extending its operations to align with proposed hotel purchases to house hundreds of individuals before reactivating the City’s shelter system.
The collaborative effort between the City of San Diego, County of San Diego, SDHC, RTFH, San Diego Convention Center and homeless service providers, known as Operation Shelter to Home, opened on April 1 with two main objectives: protect the health of San Diegans experiencing homelessness amid the ongoing global COVID-19 pandemic and work to house them as quickly as possible.
The shelter has been lauded for its ability to successfully manage a population of approximately 1,000 individuals per day; keep an extremely low COVID-19 positivity rate among shelter clients, staff and volunteers; and quickly house individuals through several key strategies. The updates provided today include:
Out of more than 7,700 tests administered at the Convention Center on a regular testing schedule, only 21 residents and staff have tested positive for COVID-19. Among the several disease prevention measures taken, clients and staff at the Convention Center are screened daily by temperature check and tested regularly for COVID-19, regardless of symptoms.
With a combination of new housing strategies and the opening of new housing developments, Operation Shelter to Home has already helped more than 600 individuals find housing so far. This builds upon and significantly expands the housing efforts at the City’s bridge shelter program before the pandemic, approximately doubling the pre-COVID housing rate.
SDHC’s Housing Navigation Teams, working in collaboration with RTFH staff, have worked to streamline processes in the region’s Coordinated Entry System (CES) which matches people to a housing voucher or subsidy, and reduced barriers for access to various voucher and subsidy programs through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, San Diego County’s Project One for All initiative and more.
Proposed Hotel Acquisitions
The City and SDHC embarked on a journey to identify hotels for purchase in March. A Residence Inn on Hotel Circle and a Residence Inn in Kearny Mesa were identified after SDHC reviewed 29 properties and performed extensive due diligence to evaluate each site. The proposed purchase of the two properties would create 332 permanent supportive housing units, with 72 of the units having two bedrooms, for a capacity to provide housing for more than 400 individuals. The units were determined to require minimal work to be move-in ready. The County of San Diego, through a proposal by Supervisor Nathan Fletcher, has allocated $5.4 million for behavioral health and other support services to the projects for two years. The properties are slated to be presented to City Council by mid-October, with a goal of opening them by December.
Reactivating the City’s Shelter Network
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, the City and SDHC have worked in coordination with shelter providers and County Public Health to make a comprehensive plan for reactivating the City’s shelter network with ongoing and long-term prevention and management. Under pre-pandemic conditions, the shelter system funded by the City included 1,581 beds and supportive services for those clients. Under new guidelines and reduced capacity, the City estimates it can accommodate 855 to 1,002 adults and 318 families. This includes the utilization of the lower level of Golden Hall and the Palm Avenue transitional housing complex as expanded shelter options.
Extension of Convention Center Shelter Operations
In June, City Council approved funding for Operation Shelter to Home through October. With the timeline for the proposed hotel purchases to become permanent housing units in December, options were presented today for extending operation of the emergency shelter until hundreds more can be moved into those units and lessen the number who would need shelter in the reactivated shelter system. Funding for the extension will require Council approval at a subsequent meeting.
San Diego was the only major county in California that saw a reduction in homelessness in 2019 and then continued that progress with an additional 6 percent reduction in the 2020 Point-In-Time Count.
What everyone is saying:
Mayor Kevin L. Faulconer: “Operation Shelter to Home has helped hundreds of people get off the streets and into permanent housing. It has been an absolute game-changer thanks to the hard work, dedication and compassion of so many. By extending operations at the Convention Center, we can give hundreds more San Diegans the opportunity to transform their lives with a place they can call home and ensure the same level of safety at the City’s bridge shelters when they reopen.”
RTFH Chair and Councilmember Chris Ward: “Operation Shelter to Home has two goals: protect the health of San Diegans experiencing homelessness amid the ongoing global COVID-19 pandemic and work to house them as quickly as possible. Extending San Diego’s shelter operations will allow us to continue safeguarding the health of our most vulnerable neighbors while we connect them with permanent housing opportunities.”
RTFH Vice-Chair and County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher: “We have helped many individuals experiencing homelessness during the COVID-19 pandemic because we came together as a region and used a coordinated strategy. The County of San Diego is proud to support the extension of the Shelter to Home Operation with our most valuable assets, our County employees. They will continue to deliver COVID wellness checks, behavioral health services and connect those staying temporarily at the Convention Center to services through December. This work is foundational to putting people on a path to a more sustainable and productive future.”
SDHC President & CEO Richard C. Gentry: “The updates provided to the City Council today demonstrate the positive impact we can achieve working together in a coordinated, strategic, system-wide approach that aligns with the City of San Diego’s Community Action Plan on Homelessness. The San Diego Housing Commission looks forward to continuing this collaborative work, with direction from the City Council, to address homelessness in the City.”
RTFH CEO Tamera Kohler: “Effectively addressing homelessness requires the type of regional collaboration that has produced these positive results through Operation Shelter to Home at the San Diego Convention Center. The Regional Task Force on the Homeless and all of the organizations working together on this effort have established a solid foundation for continued collaboration moving forward.”