Homeless shelter at San Diego Convention Center to close

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SAN DIEGO (CNS) – Mayor Todd Gloria announced Friday that residents of a homeless shelter at the San Diego Convention Center will be relocated to the city’s reconfigured shelters, where they will continue receiving social services.

After a series of extensions due to the pandemic, Operation Shelter to Home is scheduled to conclude this month. All people sheltering in the convention center who have not already moved to permanent housing or longer-term housing options will be relocated to another location in the city’s shelter system. Move-out is slated to begin the week of March 22.

“Every San Diegan should take pride in what Operation Shelter to Home accomplished in keeping our homeless neighbors safe, but also ending the cycle of homelessness for hundreds during this pandemic,” Gloria said. “What this experience has demonstrated is that we can come together to address people’s homelessness.

“We can create the ecosystem of services and service providers that addresses the needs of the individual. This will now guide our efforts as we move toward ending chronic homelessness,” Gloria said.

In April 2020, the convention center — sitting empty due to COVID-19 closures — opened its exhibit halls to serve as a safe, sanitary environment to protect hundreds of people experiencing homelessness each night during the pandemic, allowing for physical distancing, on-site medical care and ongoing testing as well as consolidating limited resources among shelter providers.

“Serving as a temporary home for more than 4,000 San Diegans in need and working alongside dedicated staff from the city, county and all our partner organizations was a life-changing experience for our team,” said Clifford “Rip” Rippetoe, San Diego Convention Center president and CEO. “As we prepare to return to our primary purpose as an economic generator for this region, we will draw on the additional expertise we have gained in COVID-19 protocols through this effort, supporting our safe reopening.”

The collaborative effort between San Diego, the County of San Diego, Regional Task Force on the Homeless, San Diego Housing Commission and San Diego Convention Center served more than 4,000 people and helped nearly 1,300 individuals and 43 families find permanent or longer-term housing.

“Operation Shelter to Home succeeded in placing hundreds of people into housing because government agencies and nonprofits worked closely together to provide assistance,” said City Council President Pro Tem Stephen Whitburn. “It shows that continued coordination of services will be key to making real progress in addressing homelessness.”

The city worked with the county, the Housing Commission and service providers Alpha Project and Father Joe’s Villages to reconfigure the city’s homeless shelters to continue to serve the maximum possible number of people per night while also adhering to public health guidelines for COVID-19 prevention and mitigation.

Approximately 600 people are being moved from the convention center to city shelters, including Golden Hall. Some people will also be transitioned to open beds at the Father Joe’s Villages Paul Mirabile Center and PATH Connections interim shelter, which were reconfigured for greater physical distancing and COVID-19 prevention last year, as well as the recently opened Bishop Women’s Shelter.

“Through Operation Shelter to Home, Father Joe’s Villages was able to touch the lives of thousands of neighbors in need, helping our neighbors to move off the streets for good and end their homelessness,” said Father Joe’s President and CEO, Deacon Jim Vargas. “We are grateful for the swift action of local leadership and support of the community in helping to provide safe shelter to those most vulnerable during this unprecedented time.”

The shelters to which those in the convention center will be relocated include two shelters operated by the Alpha Project — the 16th Street and Newton Avenue shelter with 180 beds for single adults and 1710 Imperial Ave. with 106 beds for single adults — and a twin shelter in Golden Hall operated by Father Joe’s Villages with 192 beds and 10 cribs for families and transition age youth on the upper level and 324 beds solely for adult men on the bottom level.

The county will continue to provide ongoing health-related guidance at the shelters.

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