Deacon Jim Vargas On Utilizing Convention Center For Those Who Are Homeless
Speaker 1: 00:00 The San Diego convention center is filling up as shelters around the city, transfer their homeless residents to the facility. A major effort is being coordinated to provide the homeless a refuge from the Kovac 19 virus. Just yesterday, father Joe's villages relocated the last group of homeless men from its shelter to the convention center. The now empty shelters will turn their attention to admitting homeless people living outdoors on the streets, canyons, and along the San Diego river. Father Joe's has also converted part of its shelter into a space for more than 170 homeless people who are at high risk for the Corona virus. Joining me is deacon Jim Farcus, president and chief executive officer of father Joe's villages and deacon Jim, welcome to the program. Speaker 2: 00:46 Thanks for having Morgan. It's a pleasure. Speaker 1: 00:48 Now the shelter at the convention center is set up differently than the typical shelter, so that's social distancing as possible. Can you tell us about that? Speaker 2: 00:56 Sure, absolutely. You're right. That was the whole purpose and it allowed us as a whole new service providers who have within our shelters less than six feet and allowed us the opportunity to reduce the density by being able to move individuals. Initially we moved some individuals, some women into the colon hall you might recall, and then we expanded the beds there for single women. And then in time we've now emptied Al golden hall actually and moved everyone, all the single women into the convention center. And similarly we've been able, from our own campus itself, to reduce the population there. We used to have 350 beds for single men and women and we've been able to reach to reduce that now to 175 beds. So this is a beds to which you alluded and and focus on our campus on the at risk population. Speaker 1: 01:48 Now we've heard about some territorial issues arising at the convention center among different shelter providers. Is it just a rumor that father Joe's won't let anyone but it's clients use the indoor bathrooms at the convention center? Speaker 2: 02:02 That is not the case. There was. There's no validity to that. In fact, there are, as you know, have you been to the convention center for other functions? The one good thing that it has is that it has restrooms all over the place and that's because it has to accommodate thousands of people who frequent it as an example during comic con and so they are bathrooms all over and the way it's been set up or the way, and we haven't set it up this way. It's really the city and the County. They've set up different areas in different halls almost for the various providers so that we have a whole as those VSD as does the alpha project in each of this whole nature of these holes have restrooms and showers have been brought in. Actually the city and the County have brought in showers so that people have the availability of showers as well. Speaker 1: 02:48 Why do you think rumors like this spring up? Speaker 2: 02:50 I, I don't know why they spring up, Maureen. I really told, but it's, it always saddens me when it, when it happens because it, it detracts from the work that we're each doing in. Each of the providers are working very hard, especially under these circumstances in order to be able to continue to serve those who are on the streets and not only those who are on their shelter would be able to have the opportunity to bring others into, into the indoors where it's more sanitary, where we have distancing, where we can provide what they need in order, not just to have a roof over their heads for the time being, but start working with them, uh, for them to be able to become self sufficient so we can help them get housing and get employment, which is what our specialty is. Speaker 1: 03:33 And do residents, uh, now in the convention center, do they, are they wearing masks? Speaker 2: 03:38 For sure. Team members that were in mass because the team members have been issued while masking that's required there. The residents, there they are, they're tested before coming in and there's a strict testing area, um, or protocol I should say to make sure that the individuals who are there do not have the virus so that it won't be contagion, won't go, won't have an opportunity to spread, um, or be available at all within that area. So, um, they have that, um, as to whether each and every single one of them is wearing masks. I'm not sure. Some are wearing masks to make sure that every single person in there is wearing a mask. But I can tell you that there's, there are strict protocols for screening to ensure that individuals, they are not symptomatic. Speaker 1: 04:22 Now his father Joe's using any of its shelter space that has been vacated, uh, to bring in people who are now living outside, outdoors. Speaker 2: 04:33 Well, yes. Uh, we are the, the Palma robbery center, which I mentioned used to have 350 beds and now has been repurposed to 175 in order to allow the distancing we are. And as for as the re at risk population, initially it's our own people. Um, then we will be bringing in also at risk clients from alpha project as well as VSP and then any other additional beds that are, that are available up to a 175 will be filled by people off the streets. Our, our outreach teams are continuing to work on a daily basis out on the streets in order to be able to, to not only educate those who are on the streets and pass out hygiene kits, but also start linking them up with, with shelter beds. Speaker 1: 05:19 And what about the number of your volunteers? I've heard from other charitable organizations that the volunteer pool is kind of shrunk because more people are staying at home and, and so forth. Do you have enough people to care for the people that you care for? Speaker 2: 05:36 Well we do. We, we're blessed with a lot of volunteers. Last year we are going to 10,000 volunteers. And have we seen a reduction? We absolutely have. And in fact, in some cases we suggested that some volunteers stay home. We don't want to put anyone who's in a vulnerable category who's older as an example, who has preexisting conditions. Um, while, while we're very busy sanitizing our custodial staff is extremely diligent about that. And we have a lot of protocols that we put in place. And then we have PPEs the personal protective equipment in place as well. We have all that, but I also don't want to put those who are at risk at an undue risk basically. And, and so we recommend that those stay home, but those who are healthy and those who want to help us, uh, by all means, I w I, I suggest that they come reach out to us and our volunteers are great and they've been extremely responsive. Speaker 2: 06:28 In fact, it's interesting how even those who who might be older have still wanted to come down and, and at the end of the day, I leave it to them, but it's, it's great to see how people want to give back. And this is a season, you know, it's an interesting time for the different faith traditions as you can imagine, because a lot of things are happening within this weekend in a couple of weeks. We have Passover just started yesterday. And for the Christians, the holiest days are upon us in these next few days leading to Easter. And we have Ramadan coming up in a couple of weeks. And so, and so it's an interesting, we know what we're going to have to be celebrating in, uh, in these, these, um, events and commemorating these events in a very different way. And yet at the heart of it is still the fundamental truth. Well, number one of God's love for us and how we should be serving one another. And also how, you know, charity really is at the heart of who we are in these various faith traditions. And so it gives people an opportunity to give back in, in various ways, whether it's volunteering or, or whether it's a financial support and having those at this critical time. Uh, we need financial support. So, so we're in, we're in interesting times morning. Speaker 1: 07:42 We are indeed. I've been speaking with deacon Jim Vargas, president and chief executive officer of father Joe's villages. Thank you for your time. I appreciate it. Thank you. God bless you.