By Sandra G. Leon
The large event hall in downtown where politicians gather on election nights will now house some of San Diego’s most vulnerable homeless population as the City prepares for an anticipated increase in COVID-19 cases.
“The worst of COVID-19 hasn’t hit us yet,” San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer said on Monday. “The storm is still out there.”
San Diego has not had any confirmed COVID-19 cases among its homeless population, but tests have only recently been available for the vulnerable community.
Golden Hall, located within the City Hall complex in the heart of downtown, has been setup with 240 military style cots to house homeless individuals while still participating safe social distancing.
“This will give us more shelter space to meet social distancing requirements,” Mayor Faulconer said. “We can spread out shelter beds and use staff more efficiently,” Mayor Faulconer added.
The city-owned facility has already been housing homeless and displaced families, but those families will now be moved to hotel rooms that have been arranged and paid for by the County of San Diego. The City is also preparing halls within the San Diego Convention Center to serve as a temporary homeless shelter.
The County of San Diego has already secured nearly 2,000 hotel rooms to house people with COVID-19 symptoms or for vulnerable populations that cannot isolate themselves. 200 hotel rooms will house older homeless individuals or those with underlying health issues.
San Diego will receive new funding from the $1.1 billion in emergency coronavirus funding approved by the California Legislature on March 16. The emergency funding included $7.13 million earmarked for San Diego County for sheltering homeless through the city, county and the Regional Task Force on the Homeless, as well as another $43 million appropriated in last year’s state budget to help address San Diego’s homeless housing crisis.