Officials Working To Get 1,000-Plus Homeless San Diegans Into Housing By Year End
San Diego city leaders said Tuesday that more than 1,100 people will secure permanent or longer-term housing by the end of the year through Operation Shelter to Home — the city's COVID-19 homeless shelter at the San Diego Convention Center.
The shelter opened its doors in April as a measure to halt the spread of COVID-19 among San Diego's homeless population, and currently houses around 900 people per day, and housed a peak of 1,300 people daily, according to San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer.
Faulconer called the project "a public health success story" at a Tuesday morning news conference, saying only 27 residents and staff tested positive for COVID-19 out of more than 9,300 tests administered since the shelter opened.
Officials said that to date, more than 840 individuals and 45 families sheltered at the convention center have obtained housing, while around 400 others will soon be moved into housing units the city secured through the purchase of two hotels in Mission Valley and Kearny Mesa. That purchase will convert the hotels into 332 furnished apartment units and residents will receive on-site supportive services, officials said.
In addition to those moved into housing, others will be matched to housing resources like vouchers or other rental subsidies, the city said.
"This pandemic brought our region together like never before to work toward our shared goals of protecting our most vulnerable residents and removing barriers to housing — and now over 1,100 people will have a permanent place of their own to call home," Faulconer said.
San Diego Mayor-elect Todd Gloria said the collaborative efforts to bring Operation Shelter to Home together was "a bright spot" amid the pandemic.
"This is a testament to what we can do if we choose to do it," said Gloria, who said efforts like Operation Shelter to Home must be continued even after the pandemic ends.
"It shouldn't take a pandemic to care about our unsheltered population," he said.
The nonprofit Alpha Project was one of the homeless service providers working out of the convention center. Its CEO Bob McElroy said at times the shelter had more than 800 people inside.
“This is not easy,” McElroy said, “waking up every morning in the middle of a gigantic room and staying motivated.”
Of the nearly 850 people that have gotten housed this year, 356 are in permanent supportive housing units, while nearly 250 others are part of temporary rapid rehousing or rental subsidy programs. More than 200 people have been housed with friends and family or “other long-term housing.”
At least 45 families have been housed since the pandemic.