City council to vote Tuesday on buying hotels for homeless housing

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SAN DIEGO (CNS) – Mayor Kevin Faulconer and other civic leaders gathered Monday to urge the City Council to vote Tuesday to purchase two hotels for housing hundreds of homeless San Diegans.

Faulconer, who was joined by City Council President Georgette Gomez, Councilmember Chris Ward and San Diego Housing Commission President and CEO Richard C. Gentry, asked that the council purchase the Residence Inn Hotel Circle and Residence Inn Kearny Mesa hotel properties — which could be turned into 332 permanent units for more than 400 homeless people.

Many of those people have been staying with Operation Shelter to Home, a collaborative project began by the city and homelessness service providers in April to manage more than 1,000 people experiencing homelessness at the San Diego Convention Center during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. According to city data, it has already helped find permanent housing for more than 660 people.

“These properties will pave the way for over 400 additional folks who have been stabilized through Operation Shelter to Home to get a place of their own,” Faulconer said. “We’re moving quickly, but we’ve also done the due diligence to bring these proposals forward and have these units ready by December.”

The City Council will have the option — in its capacity as the San Diego Housing Authority — to not only approve the purchase of the properties on Tuesday, but also approve agreements between the housing commission and nonprofit homelessness service providers Father Joe’s Villages and People Assisting The Homeless to provide the on-site supportive services. The one-year contract for each provider would be just over $2 million for Father Joe’s and nearly $2.8 million for PATH if approved as written in the San Diego Housing Authority agenda.

According to Faulconer’s office, the two hotel properties would require “minimal” work before they would become available for habitation. The San Diego Housing Commission reviewed more than 29 properties before advocating for the purchase of the Hotel Circle and Kearny Mesa Residence Inn properties.

“By converting these hotels into housing and continuing to navigate folks into other housing, our region will continue to lead the state on solutions to reduce homelessness,” Faulconer said. “I urge my colleagues on the City Council to keep this momentum going.”

Tuesday could prove to be a major date in the city’s ongoing fight against homelessness, as the council will also decide whether to extend Operation Shelter to Home through December.

In June, the City Council approved funding for the project through October. Last week, the council’s Public Safety and Livable Neighborhoods Committee unanimously approved the allocation of approximately $4.8 million in Federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act funding to extend operations at the Convention Center through December.

Theoretically, this would align the end of convention center shelter operations with the anticipated opening of the two former hotel properties. However, if the council votes against allocating that money or tables the item, hundreds of homeless San Diegans could find themselves back on the street or scattered to the city’s smaller shelters in the interim.

One of those smaller shelters was approved for expansion last week. 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 youth 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 saw a reduction in homelessness in 2019 and another 6% reduction year-over-year in the 2020 Point-In-Time Count.

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