Linda McDowell
A tearful Linda McDowell after a long day of searching for an apartment in downtown San Diego. (Zoë Meyers/inewsource)

By Zoë Meyers and Cody Dulaney | inewsource

Linda McDowell had goosebumps after touring a downtown apartment just blocks from San Diego Bay. It was spacious enough for her 6-year-old pitbull named Stella, and with a park down the street, it seemed perfect. She almost couldn’t believe it would be the first place to call her own since before the pandemic.

On the way to the bank for money to hold the apartment, Linda sang aloud, “I’m gettin’ an apartment,” incorporating her own twist on the Sam Cooke classic, “We’re havin’ a party. Dancin’ to the music.”

For more than a year, Linda and Stella have been living at a San Diego County-run hotel in Old Town, which has been used to temporarily house people with pre-existing health conditions during the coronavirus pandemic. She is one of dozens of others who still remain at the hotel as the troubled program is at risk of ending a month sooner than expected. 

The remaining guests have only a few weeks to find a new place to live, or they will be sent to a homeless shelter. A county spokesperson said officials are doing everything they can to help, and pointed to the number of housing subsidies that have been provided.

Linda is one of 30 guests who received a Section 8 voucher, a form of government assistance that helps low-income residents pay for housing, and it gave her peace of mind knowing she’d have financial support to cover the $2,445 monthly rent. Even so, she has come to learn how difficult it can still be to find a home in San Diego.

“It’s been a long haul,” she said.

The hotel shelter program has been winding down since the beginning of the year, and county staff and contractors are supposed to be working with guests to help them find housing. But for the past several weeks, Linda said she hasn’t been getting the help she needs, so she decided to start touring and applying for units on her own. 

So far she hasn’t been successful and she’s worried she won’t be able to find somewhere to live before the program ends.

County officials still haven’t told guests when they need to be out of the hotel, but time is running out.

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