SAN DIEGO — Since the early days of the pandemic, the City of San Diego has hosted hundreds of homeless at the Convention Center. Although there was a major COVID-19 outbreak last month, those News 8 talked to say they’ve still got some of the best services in town.
For the last 40 years, Ed Bidwell hasn’t missed a Comic-Con here at the Convention Center, but since April 1, Bidwell has been spending a lot more time there. Due to a medical condition that forced him to quit his job, he’s been homeless for the last two years. After living at the Alpha Project, he moved into the Convention Center, a shelter that he says is one of the best he’s lived in. “It's most people from around the country will tell you this is the best arrangement they've seen in America,” said Bidwell.
The Convention Center was opened for what the city calls: Operation Shelter at Home, which alleviated the stress on shelters and gave the city’s homeless healthcare and a COVID safe environment while the pandemic raged outside. Programs which Bidwell says are excellent. “The food is better. It's cleaner. We have a staff that's dedicated to keeping it sanitary. You're able to sleep six feet apart as opposed to having a bunk maybe at the tent You're more like home. This is almost like a great living room,” Bidwell added.
Due to the constant testing, the Convention Center for the most part has stayed outbreak-free until last month, although their 5% positivity rate is lower than the county average. The reason for excellent services and frequent testing is because of the sheer dollar amount the city and federal government is spending on the project. Ashley Bailey, the Public Information Officer for Operation Shelter at Home says housing around 900 people here is costing taxpayers roughly $5.7 million dollars a month, that’s about $211 each person a day.
“It was always stated that this was not an inexpensive option, but it was the best option. It provides ample space to space individuals out and also to support with Convention Center staff and city staff on-site to be able to support the service providers,” said Bailey.
The city has already started to move people from the Convention Center into permanent housing, moving 200 people into two recently purchased hotels. Signs that the City is making positive steps of getting San Diego’s homeless safe and off the streets.
Newly elected Mayor Todd Gloria has announced that he will continue funding for housing people in the Convention Center until March.