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San Diego Converts Golden Hall To Shelter, Prepares For More COVID-19 Cases

03/23/20

Read the full article on KPBS here.

The city of San Diego announced Monday the entirety of Golden Hall and parts of the Convention Center will be converted to homeless shelters with hundreds of beds as the city rushes to prepare for what health officials are describing as a storm on the horizon with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Mayor Kevin Faulconer also said the county's nine bridge homeless shelters with public nurses will convert to screening and triage centers.

"Homeless shelter staffing levels have been dropping, some by 30- 50%," he said. "This will give us more shelter space to meet social distancing requirements. We can spread out shelter beds and use staff more efficiently."

At a news conference at Golden Hall, speakers stood in front of 240 cots lined up before Golden Hall's stage.

"For countless San Diegans, this has been the site of naturalization ceremonies, allowing them to start their new lives," Faulconer said. "Now it will be a place where homeless San Diegans can receive services that might save their lives."

County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher announced that the county has secured 1,954 hotel rooms for people showing coronavirus symptoms or for vulnerable populations. He said 200 of those will be used for people experiencing homelessness who are aging or have underlying health issues. The others will be reserved for those with symptoms of COVID-19 or those under investigation who cannot self-isolate. Examples include people in assisted- living homes and those living with people with underlying health conditions.

San Diego County has installed 257 handwashing stations throughout the county, Fletcher said. Public health nurses are stationed in bridge shelters and teams have passed out 590 hygiene kits to those experiencing homelessness, with another 1,000 kits being assembled today.

Senate Leader Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, spoke about the $1.1 billion in emergency coronavirus funding the state Legislature approved on March 16, which gave Gov. Gavin Newsom the authority to address the health crisis head- on.

Of that funding, $7.13 million is earmarked for San Diego County directly for sheltering the homeless through the city, county and the Regional Task Force on the Homeless.