Homeless Shelter Set To Leave San Diego Convention Center
Speaker 1: 00:00 The San Diego convention center is about to take on another role in its pandemic journey. Officials have announced that after housing, thousands of homeless San Diego, during the last year, the convention center will close its operations shelter to home program. The week of March 22nd, after that plans are in the works to reopen the convention center as another major vaccination site, more than 700 people still being sheltered at the convention center will be moved to bridge shelters, run by father Joe's villages and by the alpha project. And joining me today is Bob McElroy, CEO of the alpha project, which operates two of the city's shelters. And Bob welcome. Speaker 2: 00:41 Thanks for having us. Are Speaker 1: 00:44 You preparing to get alpha project ready for this transfer of people? How are you doing that? Speaker 2: 00:49 Well, we've been doing that. We've been working out for a couple of months now to get the shelters all back up to speed and, uh, we're weighing out the beds now, so that we're spatially distanced appropriately, but we're good to go. We're really excited to get back to the bridge shelters. They're more homey and more community oriented instead of the big warehouse. Uh, although the, the convention center has been a true, true blessing, but we'd like to be back in the neighborhood. Speaker 1: 01:13 How many people will be coming to your shelters? Speaker 2: 01:16 Well, we're going to have, let's see a total of 286. We're going to have 180 at their biggest facility. We used to have 324. We'll be back to 180 at the 16th and Newton site. We have 72 women in 108 men, and then we'll have one Oh six at Imperial 42 women in 64 men. So it's a little more cozy over there, but we're taking those folks out there that have been out there for a long time and need more comprehensive care. So it's really kind of cool. Speaker 1: 01:44 Yeah. What kind of coordination is going to be needed to move hundreds of people from a single shelter to various other locations? Can you give us a sense of the kind of effort that that takes? Speaker 2: 01:55 It's a huge effort, but, uh, you know, our folks are so resilient. You know, we've bugged out a couple of times when we got flooded out a few years ago, I moved 324 people who we got flooded at 16 to noon. We moved into San Diego's through the Jack Murphy stadium and an hour and a half. And you know, when we had to, when we had to bug out, uh, with the COVID over to the invention center, our folks are just just way cool. You know, we get the buses going and, uh, what we've been doing now with the convention center, cause it's not on an emergency evac. We're already making preparations for folks to come and sell lamb or get their names. Uh, of each individuals will have their overflow bins ready for them. We'll have their bed assignments. It'll be a smooth operation. Speaker 1: 02:37 You know, if the people who come to you from the convention center will be vaccinated. Speaker 2: 02:41 Well, we hope so. You know, we've done the 65 plus, uh, folks I've been begging for months, you know, to have every habit available for everyone, including our staff. And the protocol seemed to change all the time. My outreach workers got vaccinated, but not my onsite workers that are 24 seven, uh, and same with our residents. But we hope to have that available here in the next week or so of what I've heard. But you know, there's also some resistance there. You know, some of us, uh, have mental health challenges and they don't want to have the vaccinations, just like a lot of people don't want to have their flu shots. So we provide as much information as we can to our folks. And, uh, you know, I got out there with everybody. That's took me, it took me a while to get vaccinated and you know, I'm old as dirt, but I didn't want to get vaccinated before we started offering them to the, to the residents there. And, uh, as I do with the Shu flu shots every year. So it kind of encourages people if the whole man Bob gets a shot, well maybe I can get a shot too. They wait to see if I'm going to croak in two weeks and then they get their shots. So, uh, what we're doing it little by little we're we're, we're getting people, getting people, their shots Speaker 1: 03:51 Last week. Mayor Gloria said that the shelter to home program found long-term housing for more than a thousand people. I'm wondering how would you assess the whole convention center program? Speaker 2: 04:03 I mean, it was outstanding. I mean, at one time we had 1700 people on site. Uh, at one time we had over 700 on our side of the house, I think St Vincent said five and, and BVSD was there for a while. A couple of hundred. So we have a lot of folks there, but the, really the beauty of it was really centralizing services. You know, you've always, we've always heard this, you know, uh, like a central intake facility where all the services are on one site. Well, we actually did that here where the housing commission physically on site, we had the County and their medical clinicians physically on site. We had the regional task force. We had fire, we had police, we had all the resources onsite all the time. And, uh, you know, instead of people having to shop around, uh, you know, to get things done, I'm talking about our residents and providers. Speaker 2: 04:52 We had everything there and we're gonna, we're gonna, we're gonna transition that same mindset, that same technical support to each one of the shelters also. So we're gonna keep the ball rolling on here, um, and, and keep carrying on, you know, it's over a thousand people actually have been housed and the miracle that is as you know, as well as I do, Maureen did, there's no low income housing and said, there's no, there's no affordable housing in San Diego or any other city, but low-income housing certainly does not exist. So it's just been a tremendous blessing, uh, for, for all of us to find housing for what little there is out there for those, for those thousand plus people. And we want to continue the same thing. Speaker 1: 05:32 And has mayor Gloria given any indication that he's committed to funding temporary bridge shelters in the longterm? Speaker 2: 05:39 Absolutely. Absolutely. He's been at my known Todd for years and years and years. And, uh, we had a conversation while he was running it and I, and I just want to make sure that he was, he understood the importance of having people to play, you know, a bridge to that housing. You have to have people, a bridge facility where people can be safe with access to healthcare and mental health counseling and drug and alcohol treatment, all those resources in one spot while they wait for that housing that may or may never come. So, uh, yeah, he's on board with that big supporter and, uh, and we're going to continue on the efforts that we've made the, you know, we've made tremendous progress. These last few years, Speaker 1: 06:22 I've been speaking with Bob McElroy, he's CEO of the alpha project, Bob, thank you. And best of luck.