San Diego leaders including Mayor Kevin L. Faulconer, County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher, Senate President Pro Tempore Toni Atkins, City Councilmember Chris Ward and State Assemblymember Todd Gloria were joined by representatives from the San Diego Housing Commission (SDHC), Regional Task Force on the Homeless (RTFH) and San Diego Convention Center to announce that preparations are underway to open the larger areas of Golden Hall and parts of the Convention Center in phases for homeless individuals. The plan will create more space to serve people experiencing homelessness and allow for adequate physical distancing within current shelter facilities.
Last week the City of San Diego, County of San Diego, RTFH and SDHC established a Homeless Operations Branch working out of the City’s Emergency Operations Center (EOC) to coordinate the needs, resources and logistics of homeless service operations. The objective is to help limit the spread of the virus and quickly react to changing events during this public health crisis.
The two new facilities will be brought online in a phased approach, with the larger areas of Golden Hall first and parts of the Convention Center being opened at a later date. Homeless service providers have experienced the same staffing challenges as other employers across the nation. The estimated 30-50 percent reduction in workforce at City shelters and centers offering services has made it difficult to continue at current service levels under the existing shelter model.
The EOC’s Homeless Operations Branch has identified a system to screen and monitor individuals coming in off the streets, provide the recommended distancing for individuals in shelters, and adequately staff the shelters using a combination of remaining service provider staff and Convention Center employees under the direction of SDHC. Any individual exhibiting symptoms, who is at greater risk of exposure, or part of a vulnerable population will continue to be placed in various hotel and motel rooms for temporary lodging per San Diego County’s guidance.
Other steps already taken to protect people experiencing homeless include:
• Installation of 257 handwashing stations throughout the region, including 66 in the City of San Diego.
• Procurement of 1,783 hotel and motel rooms by the County to temporarily isolate individuals who may have symptoms, including 200 specifically allocated to RTFH to assist homeless individuals.
• Public health nurses are deployed to nine shelters across the region including: Alpha Project Bridge Shelter on Imperial Ave., Alpha Project Bridge Shelter on Newton Ave, Golden Hall, Haven House, La Posada, Operation Hope North County, Rachel’s Women’s Shelter, San Diego Rescue Mission and Veterans Village of San Diego.
• Public Health nurses have been assigned to Homeless Outreach Teams to educate individuals living on the streets, in the canyons and in the riverbed about COVID-19.
• Providing information on a regular basis to shelter providers regarding critical facts such as CDC and HUD guidance. SDHC disseminates updates and holds coordination calls with providers as the CDC, County and State continue to develop additional guidance.
• Assessing supply needs with homeless service providers on a regular basis and assisting when possible to distribute items based on need.
• Ongoing updates and guidance provided to shelters throughout the County, as well as distribution of operational guidelines for cleaning and sanitation activities.
For information regarding COVID-19 cases and directives from County of San Diego public health officials, please visit www.coronavirus-sd.com. Text COSD COVID19 to 468-311 for text alert updates.
For the latest information about the COVID-19 virus, updates on City services and steps the public can take to help reduce the spread of the disease, please visit sandiego.gov/coronavirus.