Written by Justin Culetu
In the closing days of January, Mayor Todd Gloria proposed an extension to the city’s Operation Shelter to Home program at the San Diego convention center through March. The City Council approved this proposal in unanimous agreement.
The operation was launched on April 1st of 2020 by former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer in response to concerns of the health of the city’s homeless population during the height of the pandemic. The city and county of San Diego, the Housing Commission, the Regional Task Force on Homelessness, and the San Diego Convention Center Corporation partnered to protect the homeless population during the pandemic. Faulconer’s plan moved individuals from other, smaller shelters to the convention center to ensure proper physical distancing and prevent the spread of COVID-19 among the vulnerable population. The program also centralized staff members of the city’s various shelters allowing for efficient and safe operations.
“Extending Operation Shelter to Home for a few more months allows us to protect this vulnerable population as we ramp up vaccinations around the region,” Gloria said. “In the meantime, we will continue to keep our program residents safe with daily health screenings and other COVID-prevention measures, while at the same time working to permanently end their cycle of homelessness.”
The program has been very successful since its beginnings. More than 3,800 people have been housed, with 1,186 individuals and 43 families able to be moved to long-term housing. With operations set to continue for the foreseeable future, these numbers are likely to increase, ultimately lowering the homeless population in the city.
Overall, the program costs $5 million per month to operate, with the three-month extension price coming in around $15.1 million according to city documents. Mayor Gloria’s extension is expected to be paid for using funds from previous shelter operations that remained unspent, as well as other funds that were approved for previous homelessness programs which total at $8.6 million. In addition, the City Council’s vote for the extension authorized an additional $5.6 million to operate the shelter for the next three months.
Also approved by the council was a companion item for the San Diego Housing Commission to allocate $2 million in federal funds to support the shelter contracts from February to June.
“Ongoing shelter operations at the convention center will enable the agencies working together there to continue to connect San Diegans experiencing homelessness with permanent or longer-term housing solutions,” according to housing commission president and CEO Richard Gentry. Due to safety protocols and proper leadership from the city, the Convention Center has been able to continue its operations during the pandemic.
For updates on Operation Shelter to Home, visit sandiego.gov/coronavirus/sheltertohome.