An unsheltered woman sleeps on concrete wall overlooking Ocean Beach Pier. Photo by Chris Stone

City officials announced Wednesday they are one step closer to advancing homeless programs within San Diego after presenting to the City Council and Public Safety and Livable Neighborhoods Committee.

The initiatives include funding to extend operations at the San Diego Convention Center emergency shelter, proposed hotel purchases to house hundreds of people currently in shelters, and a contract amendment to allow Father Joe’s Villages to continue operating the city’s Bridge Shelter at Golden Hall.

“This week of action on homelessness advanced our efforts to purchase two hotels that can quickly be adapted and create immediate housing for San Diegans experiencing homelessness, ” said Mayor Kevin Faulconer. “At the same time, we made sure that those who are being served by Operation Shelter to Home can remain stable in the Convention Center through December while those units are brought online and that Father Joe’s Villages is ready to operate the Golden Hall Bridge Shelter when the time comes to reactivate our shelters.”

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

In June, City Council approved funding for Operation Shelter to Home through October. The City Council’s Public Safety and Livable Neighborhoods Committee unanimously approved the allocation of approximately $4.8 million in Federal CARES Act funding to extend operations at the Convention Center through December. Officials said this would align Convention Center shelter operations with the anticipated timeline for the proposed purchase of two hotels to make available new housing for hundreds of San Diegans experiencing homelessness.

Final approval of this action will be presented to City Council on Oct. 13, according to the city.

In March, the City and Housing Commission began vetting properties for potential purchase to transform into permanent housing with supportive services for individuals who have experienced homelessness. After reviewing 29 properties, the Residence Inn on Hotel Circle and a Residence Inn in Kearny Mesa were identified, according to the city.

The proposed purchase of the two properties would create 332 permanent units and provide housing for more than 400 individuals. City officials said the Public Safety and Livable Neighborhoods Committee unanimously approved the purchase, which will move forward to the full City Council on Oct. 13.

The City Council also 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, according to the city.

Since 2019, Father Joe’s has operated the upper level of Golden Hall as a temporary shelter for women, families and Transition-Aged Youth (TAY) experiencing homelessness. The approved contract amendment expands their budget to increase the shelter’s beds to 568, according to Father Joe’s Villages.

“Father Joe’s Villages is grateful to the Mayor’s office, City Council and San Diego Housing Commission for the opportunity to continue and expand our life-changing work in the bridge shelter,” said Father Joe’s Villages president and CEO, Deacon Jim Vargas.

San Diego was the only major county in California that saw a reduction in homelessness in 2019 and then continued that progress with an additional six percent reduction in the 2020 Point-In-Time Count, according to city officials.

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