By: Hannah Schmidtler
Mayor Todd Gloria announced on Friday that he will extend funding for “Operation Shelter to Home” through January without council approval using previously unspent funds to pay for the project. Operation Shelter to Home began at the San Diego Convention Center on April 1 when other, smaller homeless facilities in the County were too crowded to adhere to COVID-19 social distancing guidelines.
The Convention Center can hold up to 1,300 people and has sheltered over 1,000 people since the pandemic began. Currently, the Convention Center is housing 660 people and has housed more than 870 people and 57 families. The goal of the program is to find permanent housing for San Diegans in need. They are in the progress of transitioning 200 people into long-term housing.
Operation Shelter to Home’s website lists its services as provided by Father Joe’s Village and Alpha Project. Those services include “24-hour security, meals, showers, bathrooms, laundry services, case managers and housing navigation.” “The County of San Diego provides mental and behavioral health services, healthcare and daily health screenings.”
Despite its intent to reduce the spread of COVID-19 among the homeless, Convention Center’s cases increased dramatically last week. From April to the beginning of December there were only 27 positive COVID-19 cases. Since December 3, more than 170 shelter clients and 20 staff members have tested positive. This increase aligns with the county wide increases seen throughout the month of December. The facilities conduct regular testing of all employees and residents. Over 11,200 tests have been administered since the opening of the shelter.
Operating through December is projected to cost $40 million dollars. Mayor Gloria aims to keep the facilities open through March. Each additional month the facility remains open costs over $5 million dollars.