Mayor Faulconer provides update on “Operation Shelter to Home” at Convention Center
SAN DIEGO (KUSI) – Since April the San Diego Convention Center has been transformed into a temporary homeless outreach shelter to protect individuals from COVID-19.
“There were two main goals, one: to get people out of bridge shelters, off the streets and into an environment that would prevent the virus from spreading among our homeless,” said Mayor Kevin Faulconer. “Equally, if not more important, is to use this as an opportunity to place people into that permanent place of their own.”
Faulconer coined it the “Operation Shelter to Home,” hoping to facilitate the needs of thousands of San Diegans most vulnerable at a time when their health is at risk. He also hopes that this serves as the perfect chance to connect with a part of the population that homeless outreach coordinators have had trouble serving. In addition, as other cities saw major outbreaks among their unsheltered populations San Diego tested over 3,000 and only six came back positive so far.
“We had 500 folks who weren’t in our bridge shelters take advantage of being in a safe clean environment, and once they are in that environment we can say, ‘Hey we have the help and the services,’” Faulconer said. “The work to move those individuals is ongoing, but so far we have placed 140 into permanent housing.”
Five hundred are currently going through the paperwork process with outreach services to be next on the list to secure a home of their own. Faulconer says the center has served as a unique tool to reach and help populations of the unsheltered community in ways they have never been able to before.
“There is an incredible sense of momentum because you have all the services under one roof,” Faulconer said. “Other entities that traditionally have been in other areas like HUD, the VA, all are under the same roof and that’s what I wanted from the very beginning— everybody coming together. Let’s match the dollars. Let’s match the resources. Let’s get people housed.”
Hotels and motels have been purchased by local housing initiatives to be transformed into apartments. Faulconer says these are the resources being used to make sure people don’t end up back on the streets. However it leaves many to wonder, what happens as the economy restarts and conventions get the green light to resume?
“It’s of course good news that our economy is restarting,” Faulconer said. “So as more things begin to resume and conventions get the chance to do that maybe this fall, it’s even more of a sense of urgency to get folks that have been safely at the Convention Center, into that place of their own.”
Faulconer adds that health officials will have a pivotal role in deciding when it’s time to begin moving people out of the Convention Center. The process will be a team effort across numerous agencies including working with Deacon Jim Vargas from Father Joe’s Villages.
“This pandemic has given us the opportunity to really look at how we provide services to those who are on the street in general,” Vargas said. “My hope and my prayer is that as we move forward and we use this as a model to continue to keep people off the streets and help them into self-sufficiency and permanent dwellings. I’m hoping this is the start of a good thing.”
Faulconer says it will be a clear way forward to continue combating the issue of chronic homelessness in San Diego.
“I think we shave the right model, we have not only the resources but the political will,” Faulconer said. “Which says allowing someone to live and die on the street is unacceptable.”