Cots in the convention center
Cots being set up in the San Diego Convention Center on Wednesday. Courtesy of the center

The San Diego Convention Center opened its doors to the city’s homeless Wednesday morning in an effort to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

Mayor Kevin Faulconer and other city and county officials officially opened the center to groups of homeless individuals from the city’s bridge shelters.

“Starting today, the help that homeless individuals need during this COVID-19 emergency can be found inside these iconic walls of the San Diego Convention Center,” Faulconer said. “During this pandemic, it will be a beacon of hope for our homeless community.”

With conventions canceled amid the pandemic, the sprawling center on the waterfront downtown will be used to create more shelter space, allow more room between individuals per guidelines from public health officials, and centralize limited shelter staff.

Faulconer said that with the homeless properly housed, there is less of a risk to the community from people on the streets getting and spreading the virus.

“Slowing the spread means getting everyone into a safe, clean environment,” he said.

Faulconer said the effort, dubbed “Operation Shelter to Home,” also creates an opportunity to fundamentally address the homeless challenge through support services to get individuals permanently off the streets after the pandemic ends.

“If we can’t fill the convention center with tourists, we’ll fill it with hope,” he said.

The city has also fully converted Golden Hall adjacent to City Hall into a homeless shelter.

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Chris Jennewein

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.