San Diego leaders said the city's Convention Center will be used as a temporary shelter for homeless individuals in an effort to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and to later find those residents permanent housing.
"The Convention Center is a welcoming beacon for people from around the world and during this pandemic, it will be a beacon of hope for our community," Mayor Kevin Faulconer said in a press conference on Wednesday.
Announced last week, the move will give homeless residents a place for basic necessities like shelter, food and somewhere to bathe. The temporary shelter will also ensure homeless people will practice guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, such as social distancing and frequent hand washing.
"This Convention Center space will help us spread out our shelter beds, be more efficient with staffing and protect parts of the population that are most susceptible to the coronavirus," he said.
The San Diego Convention Center will house homeless individuals who do not display symptoms of the novel coronavirus. The move allows the city to free up its existing bridge shelters to instead use them for coronavirus screenings.
Not only will the Convention Center be a place for temporary shelter, but it will also act as a resource to connect homeless people with case managers who will work with them to find permanent housing, according to Tamera Kohler, CEO of the Regional Task Force on the Homeless.
Faulconer said he hopes the Convention Center will house up to 1,500 homeless individuals at a time. There will be 24-hour security and individuals will be allowed to take their pet companions with them, Kohler said. Officials may later decide to put those pets in a kennel.
Among those who joined Faulconer and Kohler at Wednesday’s press conference are Supervisor Nathan Fletcher, City Councilmember Chris Ward, San Diego Convention Center CEO Rip Rippetoe and CEO of Alpha Project, Bob McElroy.