In five months since opening as an emergency shelter during the COVID-19 pandemic, Operation Shelter to Home at the San Diego Convention Center has hit another milestone by helping more than 525 individuals in the City’s shelter system experiencing homelessness find housing, with hundreds more on the path to a home after being matched with housing vouchers or subsidies.
The collaborative effort between the City of San Diego, County of San Diego, San Diego Housing Commission (SDHC), Regional Task Force on the Homeless (RTFH), San Diego Convention Center and homeless service providers 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.
In July, the City and SDHC reported having housed more than 300 clients of Operation Shelter to Home. A combination of new housing strategies plus the opening of two large housing developments has set the operation on track to house an estimated 700 individuals by the end of September.
The progress is the result of SDHC’s Housing Navigation Teams, working in partnership with RTFH staff, to identify gaps in the region’s Coordinated Entry System (CES) that match people to a housing voucher or subsidy. The agencies have also 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.
This work by the SDHC and RTFH has more than doubled housing navigation placements compared to a 12-month period of the City’s Bridge Shelters, rectifying system barriers and challenges that would have not been achieved by the region’s service provider’s alone.
Operation Shelter to Home has housed individuals in the following locations:
Other longer-term housing (transitional housing, safe haven, host homes, foster care, substance abuse treatment facility, long-term care facility or nursing home) – 13 percent
Friends and family – 17 percent
Rapid Rehousing – 15 percent
Rental (no subsidy or other subsidy) – 12 percent
The City and SDHC are working to purchase and transform hotels into permanent supportive housing units with on-site behavioral and mental health support. In recent weeks, the State of California reserved $27.7 million from its Project Homekey grant initiative for the purchase of the hotels and the County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to allocate $5.4 million for on-site services. Acquiring hotels is anticipated to make 300-400 housing units available in the near future.
The consolidation of resources at the convention center created more shelter space, allowed more room between individuals per guidelines from public health officials, and centralized staff across all agencies. The shelter currently serves more than 1,100 individuals daily.
The shelter continues to successfully protect the health of San Diegans experiencing homelessness. Due to intensive sanitation and safety efforts, only 20 clients and staff have tested positive for COVID-19 out of more than 7,000 tests conducted.
San Diego was the only major counties 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.