Votes on convention center shelter extension, proposed hotel acquisitions and Golden Hall shelter expansion move forward

City of San Diego logoThe City of San Diego’s Homelessness Strategies Division, Economic Development Department and the San Diego Housing Commission (SDHC) presented items this week to the San Diego City Council and Public Safety and Livable Neighborhoods Committee to advance progress on homeless programs within the City.

The presentations included funding to extend operations at the emergency shelter established at the San Diego Convention Center, proposed hotel purchases to house hundreds of individuals currently in shelters, and a contract amendment to allow Father Joe’s Villages to continue operating the City’s Bridge Shelter at Golden Hall when shelter operations resume.

Extension of Convention Center Shelter Operations

In April, the City of San Diego, County of San Diego, SDHC, Regional Task Force on the Homeless, San Diego Convention Center and homeless service providers opened the San Diego Convention Center as an emergency shelter with two main objectives: protect the health of San Diegans experiencing homelessness amid the ongoing global COVID-19 pandemic and work to house them as quickly as possible.

Known as Operation Shelter to Home, the effort has been lauded for its ability to successfully manage a population of approximately 1,000 individuals per day; prevent the spread of COVID-19 among shelter clients, staff and volunteers; and house more than 668 individuals through several key strategies so far.

In June, City Council approved funding for Operation Shelter to Home through October. The City Council’s Public Safety and Livable Neighborhoods Committee unanimously approved the allocation of approximately $4.8 million in Federal CARES Act funding to extend operations at the Convention Center through December. The cost is estimated at $11.4 million – $4.8 million from COVID-related Community Development Block Grant funding, $4.3 million from Coronavirus Relief Funds, and the remaining $2.3 million will be covered by existing shelter budgets. This would align Convention Center shelter operations with the anticipated timeline for the proposed purchase of two hotels to make available new housing for hundreds of San Diegans experiencing homelessness. Final approval of this action will be presented to City Council on Oct. 13.

Proposed Hotel Acquisitions

In March, the City and SDHC began vetting properties for potential purchase to transform into permanent housing with supportive services for individuals who have experienced homelessness. After reviewing 29 properties, the Residence Inn on Hotel Circle and a Residence Inn in Kearny Mesa were identified. The proposed purchase of the two properties would create 332 permanent units and provide housing for more than 400 individuals. The units will require minimal work to be made available for move in and the County has approved funding for on-site supportive services.

The City’s Public Safety and Livable Neighborhoods Committee unanimously approved the purchase, which will move forward to the full City Council on Oct. 13.

Contract Amendment & Expansion of Golden Hall Bridge Shelter

The City and SDHC have worked in coordination with shelter providers and County public health officials to make a comprehensive plan to reactivate the City’s shelters when it is determined safe to resume operations. The City Council approved an amendment Tuesday to the operating agreement with Father Joe’s Villages for one of the City’s bridge shelters, which is located at Golden Hall. Since 2019, Father Joe’s has operated the upper level of Golden Hall as a temporary shelter for women, families and Transition-Aged Youth (TAY) experiencing homelessness. The approved contract amendment expands their budget to operate an additional 280 beds for single adults on the lower level of Golden Hall, plus approximately 288 beds and cribs on the upper level.

San Diego was the only major county in California that saw a reduction in homelessness in 2019 and then continued that progress with an additional 6 percent reduction in the PDF icon 2020 Point-In-Time Count.

What everyone is saying:

Mayor Kevin L. Faulconer: “This week of action on homelessness advanced our efforts to purchase two hotels that can quickly be adapted and create immediate housing for San Diegans experiencing homelessness. At the same time, we made sure that those who are being served by Operation Shelter to Home can remain stable in the Convention Center through December while those units are brought online and that Father Joe’s Villages is ready to operate the Golden Hall Bridge Shelter when the time comes to reactivate our shelters.”

SDHC President & CEO Richard C. Gentry: “The actions taken this week demonstrate the importance of a variety of housing options – from shelters to new permanent housing – to help San Diegans experiencing homelessness move forward on their path to permanent housing. I thank Mayor Faulconer and the City Council for their support of these initiatives.”

President & CEO of Father Joe’s Villages Deacon Jim Vargas: “Father Joe’s Villages is grateful to the Mayor’s office, City Council and San Diego Housing Commission for the opportunity to continue and expand our life-changing work in the bridge shelter. Last year in the Bridge Shelter alone, Father Joe’s Villages assisted 200 residents in securing permanent or longer-term housing. We are confident that this move will allow us to help even more neighbors in need leave homelessness behind for good.”