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Convention Center Opens as Temporary Regional Homeless Shelter Amid COVID-19 Pandemic


Furthering efforts to prevent the spread of COVID-19 among San Diego’s homeless population, the San Diego Convention Center is set to open its doors this week as a temporary shelter for individuals experiencing homelessness during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“To best prepare for COVID-19, we need to all work together as a region," said Supervisor Fletcher. "San Diego County is proud to provide emergency funding as well as mental and behavioral health services, healthcare and daily health screenings to help reduce the risk of this virus devastating our homeless community. Quite simply, it’s the right thing to do.” 

San Diego leaders including Mayor Kevin L. Faulconer, County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher and City Councilmember Chris Ward were joined by Regional Task Force on the Homeless (RTFH) CEO Tamera Kohler and San Diego Convention Center President and CEO Rip Rippetoe to detail the latest plans to utilize the Convention Center to create more space to serve individuals experiencing homelessness and allow for adequate physical distancing within current shelter facilities.

The plan is part of a new, system-wide coordinated approach to further help sheltered and unsheltered individuals remain healthy during the global pandemic. Dubbed “Operation Shelter to Home,” the Convention Center initiative will serve as a shelter supporting a broader regional approach to addressing homelessness that allows more space between individuals per Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines, increases capacity to serve more people and centralizes limited shelter staff.

On-Site Services

Supportive services offered in the temporary shelter in the Convention Center include 24-hour security, meals, showers, bathrooms, laundry services and case managers and housing navigation. The County of San Diego will be providing mental and behavioral health services, healthcare and daily health screenings. The Convention Center has installed large projectors and Wi-Fi access for clients to have entertainment and full connectivity for work, school or other needs.

Operation Shelter to Home Phased Approach

Individuals will be moved into the Convention Center in a phased approach to ensure needs and resources are scaled appropriately to serve all people. Once physical distancing requirements have been met for current shelter residents, then capacity will be assessed to intake unsheltered San Diegans.

Housing Navigation

With an Incident Command team established to oversee the emergency operation, one branch specifically will be focused on housing navigation and working to quickly transition individuals into permanent housing solutions – ultimately reducing the number of individuals experiencing homelessness in San Diego. To do this, they have identified a number of exit strategies that are being explored, including: utilizing regulatory waivers to create more room sharing opportunities; prioritizing those with benefits such as social security income and disability income; leveraging flexible spending pool funds and increase master leasing program to transition households with subsidies; and enhance the already successful Family Reunification Program to reunite individuals with family and friends.

Any individual exhibiting symptoms, who is at greater risk of exposure, or part of a vulnerable population will continue to be placed in various hotel and motel rooms for temporary lodging per San Diego County’s guidance.

For information regarding COVID-19 cases and directives from County of San Diego public health officials, please visit Text COSD COVID19 to 468-311 for text alert updates.

For the latest information about the COVID-19 virus, updates on City services and steps the public can take to help reduce the spread of the disease, please visit