Plans were announced Tuesday to extend COVID-19 outreach efforts to San Diego’s transient population as part of the city’s Operation Shelter to Home campaign, which has moved hundreds of homeless individuals into the San Diego Convention Center.

San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer said the next phase of the shelter efforts will be to move people living on the streets into the venue, which he said could accommodate 1,500 people.

“That convention center beacon is more important now than ever, particularly for folks that are unsheltered,” Faulconer said.

The mayor said the initial phase involved moving more than 800 homeless individuals from the city’s shelters, including those run by the Alpha Project, Veterans Village of San Diego, and Father Joe’s Villages.

Now, city outreach teams are working to encourage those living outdoors to consider taking shelter in the convention center, where they can receive food, showers and sleep in beds that are spaced to provide proper social distancing.

The mayor said 89 homeless people were brought into the convention center by city and police department outreach teams since Friday.

Faulconer said everyone admitted to the convention center is medically screened for COVID-19 and other illnesses, then given daily checkups once admitted.

Anyone who exhibits COVID-19 symptoms is isolated and/or transferred to an off-site medical facility.

“This is incredibly important for this very vulnerable population, many of whom has underlying health conditions,” Faulconer said.

Deacon Jim Vargas, president and CEO of Father Joe’s Villages, said: “It’s absolutely critical that we continue to take people off the streets. That’s going to make all the difference in the world in reducing the risk of contagion, not only amongst those who are on the streets, but in the general population.”

The ultimate goal of Operation Shelter, according to the city, is to help individuals end “their cycle of homelessness, with the goal of ultimately reducing the number of individuals experiencing homelessness in San Diego.”

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