(pr) Bolstering efforts to prevent the spread of COVID-19 among San Diego’s homeless population, regional leaders today introduced a system-wide coordinated approach to further help sheltered and unsheltered individuals remain healthy during the global pandemic.
San Diego leaders including Mayor Kevin L. Faulconer, County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher, Senate President Pro Tempore Toni Atkins, City Councilmember Chris Ward and State Assemblymember Todd Gloria were joined by representatives from the San Diego Housing Commission (SDHC), Regional Task Force on the Homeless (RTFH) and San Diego Convention Center to announce that preparations are underway to open the larger areas of Golden Hall and parts of the Convention Center in phases for homeless individuals. The plan will create more space to serve people experiencing homelessness and allow for adequate physical distancing within current shelter facilities.
Last week the City of San Diego, County of San Diego, RTFH and SDHC established a Homeless Operations Branch working out of the City’s Emergency Operations Center (EOC) to coordinate the needs, resources and logistics of homeless service operations. The objective is to help limit the spread of the virus and quickly react to changing events during this public health crisis.
The two new facilities will be brought online in a phased approach, with the larger areas of Golden Hall first and parts of the Convention Center being opened at a later date. Homeless service providers have experienced the same staffing challenges as other employers across the nation. The estimated 30-50 percent reduction in workforce at City shelters and centers offering services has made it difficult to continue at current service levels under the existing shelter model.
The EOC’s Homeless Operations Branch has identified a system to screen and monitor individuals coming in off the streets, provide the recommended distancing for individuals in shelters, and adequately staff the shelters using a combination of remaining service provider staff and Convention Center employees under the direction of SDHC. Any individual exhibiting symptoms, who is at greater risk of exposure, or part of a vulnerable population will continue to be placed in various hotel and motel rooms for temporary lodging per San Diego County’s guidance.
Other steps already taken to protect people experiencing homeless include:
- Installation of 257 handwashing stations throughout the region, including 66 in the City of San Diego.
- Procurement of 1,783 hotel and motel rooms by the County to temporarily isolate individuals who may have symptoms, including 200 specifically allocated to RTFH to assist homeless individuals.
- Public health nurses are deployed to nine shelters across the region including: Alpha Project Bridge Shelter on Imperial Ave., Alpha Project Bridge Shelter on Newton Ave, Golden Hall, Haven House, La Posada, Operation Hope North County, Rachel’s Women’s Shelter, San Diego Rescue Mission and Veterans Village of San Diego.
- Public Health nurses have been assigned to Homeless Outreach Teams to educate individuals living on the streets, in the canyons and in the riverbed about COVID-19.
- Providing information on a regular basis to shelter providers regarding critical facts such as CDC and HUD guidance. SDHC disseminates updates and holds coordination calls with providers as the CDC, County and State continue to develop additional guidance.
- Assessing supply needs with homeless service providers on a regular basis and assisting when possible to distribute items based on need.
- Ongoing updates and guidance provided to shelters throughout the County, as well as distribution of operational guidelines for cleaning and sanitation activities.
For information regarding COVID-19 cases and directives from County of San Diego public health officials, please visit www.coronavirus-sd.com. Text COSD COVID19 to 468-311 for text alert updates.
For the latest information about the COVID-19 virus, updates on City services and steps the public can take to help reduce the spread of the disease, please visit sandiego.gov/coronavirus.
What stakeholders are saying:
“We know from watching other nations combat the rapid spread of COVID-19, we must distance ourselves from one another and protect those among us who have underlying health conditions and are most susceptible to this virus. In a homeless shelter that can be difficult. By using the large space offered by the Convention Center and Golden Hall, we can spread folks out, swiftly remove anyone exhibiting symptoms and give individuals experiencing homelessness a fighting chance at staying healthy as we ride this pandemic out.” – Mayor Kevin L. Faulconer
“We want San Diegans to know their City, County and State government are working collaboratively with homeless service providers to activate a regionally coordinated plan to protect unsheltered people from COVID-19. Expanding sheltering capacity, access to medical professionals, monitoring for symptoms and information sharing best positions us to prevent the spread of coronavirus to our unsheltered neighbors.” – San Diego County Supervisor Fletcher, Co-Chair, County of San Diego COVID-19 Subcommittee
“We are in the midst of a public health emergency. Our community’s collective health depends on our ability to stay at home. Housing stability needs to be a clear priority. The State of California recently allocated $100 million to help address the unique needs of our homeless individuals to prevent the rapid spread of the coronavirus and protect our health care system from being further overwhelmed. Our collective efforts and collaboration here at home will make a major difference for everyone.” – Senate President Pro Tempore Toni Atkins
“These are substantial and life-saving actions that meet the scale of our crisis, slow the spread of COVID-19, and improve the ability of our partners throughout the region to keep more unsheltered San Diegans safe.” – City Councilmember Chris Ward
“We’re utilizing a comprehensive array of resources, including motel rooms and larger shelter spaces, to protect the homeless population during this pandemic. These efforts reflect the strong spirit of collaboration in San Diego that also is the foundation of the work we continue to do at the Regional Task Force on the Homeless to identify creative ways to provide a path off the streets for San Diegans experiencing homelessness:” – Regional Task Force on the Homeless CEO Tamera Kohler
“The actions announced today are the latest significant, collaborative steps partners are taking in the ongoing efforts to help limit the spread of COVID-19 among the vulnerable population of San Diegans experiencing homelessness. This will also advance the broader community goal of ‘flattening the curve.’ The San Diego Housing Commission will support these efforts and our partners with essential oversight, expertise and leadership resources. I thank and commend our elected leaders and homeless services partners for these bold, innovative actions.” – San Diego Housing Commission President & CEO Richard C. Gentry
“The San Diego Convention Center is here to serve the City of San Diego – all of you. Under ordinary circumstances, we bring value by providing a premier gathering place, an economic engine that supports thousands of jobs at our center and throughout the region–in restaurants, hotels, attractions and the like. In these extraordinary circumstances, we welcome the opportunity to add value to the community in a very different way by offering space for an emergency shelter. We recognize the importance of supporting the most vulnerable among us, including those who are unsheltered, and we look forward to using this community asset to serve our neighbors in need.” – San Diego Convention Center President & CEO Clifford “Rip” Rippetoe
“I’m very encouraged by the proactive policies and actions being taken by all city, county and stakeholders to address this emergency. We feel like we have a fighting chance to beat this virus together as a community.” – Alpha Project President & CEO Bob McElroy
“During the COVID-19, the team at Father Joe’s Villages has worked in partnership with the City of San Diego, County of San Diego, Regional Task Force on the Homeless, Health Center Partners, San Diego Housing Commission, other homeless service agencies and our provider partner, UCSD, to create and implement an action plan that will mitigate risk and minimize serious outcomes for our neighbors in need. The population we serve is more vulnerable than ever before. At this time, decisive action is what is needed. We applaud our regional leaders for taking this bold step and look forward to continuing to work with them to help safeguard the health and lives of our neighbors in need.” – Father Joe’s Villages President & CEO Deacon Jim Vargas