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Over 500 People Find Housing As Part Of City's Pandemic Response

Beds fill a homeless shelter inside the San Diego Convention Center Tuesday, Aug. 11, 2020, in San Diego.
Gregory Bull / AP Photo
Beds fill a homeless shelter inside the San Diego Convention Center Tuesday, Aug. 11, 2020, in San Diego.

When the San Diego convention center was transformed into a homeless shelter in April, city officials saw it as fulfilling two urgent needs — immediate housing for those vulnerable to the COVID-19 pandemic, and to find housing and services for those who might not have had those opportunities before.

And while the pandemic hasn’t hit the city’s homeless population as badly as many feared, the services and housing part of the equation has gone as hoped for.

Over 500 People Find Housing As Part Of City's Pandemic Response
Listen to this story by Max Rivlin-Nadler.

In the five months since the convention center shelter opened, 525 individuals have been housed. Officials say another 200 individuals will find housing by September.

The pandemic gave officials the opportunity to take bold and quick steps to try to find people housing.

RELATED: Coronavirus Hasn’t Devastated The Homeless As Many Feared

“How do we look beyond our comfort zones and stretch our resources differently?,” said Lisa Jones, with the San Diego Housing Commission, reflecting on how officials approached the issue of homelesness back in April.

She said that the city and its partners at the county and the state were able to accelerate certain processes, and tap into new resources, because of the emergency presented by the pandemic.

“We are exercising the opportunity of a true crisis, to leverage people to change,” she said. “We have the opportunity because everyone is feeling a different kind of urgency and pressure, to maybe break those more bureaucratic roadblocks that now can be moved.”

Dubbed “Operation Shelter to Home,” 43% of the people moved into housing have been moved into permanent supportive housing. Others have found temporary housing through the city, or moved in with friends or family.

Video: Over 500 People Find Housing As Part Of City's Pandemic Response

Jones expects the city to receive a huge boost in its permanent supportive housing supply, as it acquires and transforms local hotels, using a mix of new state and county money. While the normal acquisition time takes 18-24 months, Jones expects the hotels to be purchased by the end of the year.

That’s also when the convention center, which currently serves 1100 individuals each day, will shut down.