Safe Social Distancing Program
Between May and November 2020, the City operated the Safe Social Distancing Program (SSDP) in a portion of the parking lot at the Finley Community Center. The SSDP was established as a temporary measure during the COVID-19 pandemic to allow vulnerable unsheltered individuals a safer alternative to living in encampments. The program closed in November 2020 prior to the onset of winter weather conditions. Prior to closure, individuals were offered placement at the City-owned Samuel L. Jones Hall Homeless Shelter or non-congregate shelter, if eligible.
During its operation, the SSDP provided up to 68 tents, spaced 12 feet apart to allow for proper social distancing, in a fenced portion of the community center parking lot. In addition to safe temporary shelter, participants were provided with access to essential services, such as portable toilets and hand-washing stations, refuse containers, a mobile shower unit, cooling tent with misters, laundry service, and meals. Additionally, participants were linked to county-wide shelter and services via Coordinated Entry assessment and enrollment, as well as service and housing navigation, on-site medical services, and referrals for alcohol and other drug (AOD) treatment and behavioral health services. On-site management was provided 24 hours a day, seven days a week by the program operator, Catholic Charities, and a private security company.
Program Funding & Outcomes
- Approximately $680,000 of federal COVID-19 funding as utilized to operate the SSDP, which included the City’s contract with Catholic Charities to operate the program, as well as City operational costs.
- Outcomes of the program included:
- Increased safety for unsheltered community members during the pandemic through social distancing, use of masks, symptom screening, and testing.
- Individuals experiencing homelessness were more open to accepting shelter and services under the SSDP model, including those who had previously refused offers of shelter and services made by the Homeless Outreach Services Team. This resulted in more members of this underserved population utilizing services and shelter.
- 210 individuals were served, including 94 participants who moved into interim housing and six who moved into permanent housing.
- There was no increase in police and fire calls for service related to the program.