San Diego Begins Moving Homeless From Shelters To Convention Center
San Diego began transitioning residents of the city's crowded homeless shelters into the Convention Center on Wednesday, as officials look for ways to prevent the coronavirus from rapidly spreading among this especially vulnerable population.
The use of the Convention Center as a temporary homeless shelter was first announced last week. Residents of the city's tent shelters are set to start filling up the Convention Center, while the existing tents are due to be used for public health screenings among the homeless.
Close to 100 homeless individuals have also been placed into the lower level of Golden Hall, the downtown event space that often hosts citizenship oath ceremonies, with enough space between beds to allow for proper "social distancing." At the same time, county officials are placing some homeless families, individuals experiencing symptoms and those at risk of coronavirus-related complications into motel rooms to allow them to self-isolate.
The Convention Center is being outfitted with mobile shower units, and residents will have access to meals, laundry services, health screenings and pet accommodations. Officials say once all of the city's shelter residents are transitioned into the Convention Center, they will start bringing in more homeless people who are currently sleeping on the streets.
"Yesterday the county announced the unfortunate reality that three of our unsheltered San Diegans have tested positive (for the coronavirus), and we know there will be more," said Tamera Kohler, CEO of the Regional Task Force on the Homeless, during a press conference Wednesday morning. "That's why we need this shelter. And we have all of our partners working together across the region to help our homeless neighbors."
Mayor Kevin Faulconer framed the new use of the Convention Center as an opportunity to connect chronically unsheltered individuals with social services and, ideally, permanent housing.
"San Diego now has access to a huge facility that can shelter many, many more people more efficiently than ever before," Faulconer said. "This is an opportunity to tackle the coronavirus and the homeless crisis at the same time."
Faulconer did not immediately offer details on the program's budget but said it was being funded by multiple government agencies.