Though these are difficult times, it is often during unprecedented crisis that heroes are made. In the face of a pandemic, Father Joe’s Villages’ dedicated staff remain on the frontlines, continuing to provide critical services such as shelter, health care, meals and hygiene services to people living on the streets.    

Transition to the San Diego Convention Center

Since 1950, those working for Father Joe’s Villages have answered the call to provide emergency services to unsheltered neighbors in San Diego. That’s why, when the COVID-19 pandemic began 70 years later, Father Joe’s Villages’ staff were prepared to act. From the onset of this health crisis, the selfless staff at Father Joe’s Villages rushed to protect the most vulnerable people living on the streets of the community without hesitation.

During this uncertain time, Father Joe’s Villages’ shelters and housing programs continue to bring hundreds of people in from the cold, and provide them with a warm and safe place to stay. Our Residential team works on-site 24 hours a day, seven days a week providing daily support and resources for residents staying in our Interim, Transitional, Bridge and Inclement Weather shelters.

Additionally, Father Joe’s Villages Residential staff has been instrumental in repurposing the San Diego Convention Center into a shelter during the COVID-19 health crisis. To protect the health and safety of those experiencing homelessness, residents of Father Joe’s Villages’ Paul Mirabile Center and the Golden Hall Bridge Shelter were moved to the San Diego Convention Center as part of a coordinated plan with the City and County of San Diego. The additional shelter space offered by the Convention Center allowed Father Joe’s Villages to increase physical distancing between individuals per guidelines from public health officials and serve additional neighbors in need during this difficult time.

Not only that, but individuals considered at-risk, including older individuals and those with chronic health conditions, were moved to Father Joe’s Villages’ Interim Shelter in the vacated Paul Mirabile Center. With the Village Health Center just a minute walk away, residents would have immediate access to critical health services, as well as screening and testing. Since the conversion, Father Joe’s Villages’ Residential team has been operating a residential hall of 486 beds at the San Diego Convention Center, providing case management, residential services, health care and support from a Housing Specialists for neighbors in need that now stay there.

“At the Golden Hall Bridge Shelter we worked with just over 200 people at a time. Now we have over 400 people we are helping,” explained Lili, Father Joe’s Villages’ Supervisor of Residential Services. “It can be a bit overwhelming, but our services are critical so we can keep our clients safe from harm at this time, whether that harm is COVID-19 or otherwise.” 

Adapting to a New Normal

Lili and her Residential coworkers worked tirelessly to coordinate the transportation of both the Golden Hall Bridge Shelter and the Paul Mirabile Center residents to the San Diego Convention Center. They spent hours overnight numbering every bed in the Father Joe’s Villages’ hall of the convention center, processed intakes for over 400 people and delicately collected and transferred each clients’ belongings— an exhausting, but crucial process. 

Proper hygiene, sanitation and monitoring of individuals are just a few of the precautionary measures Lili and her team are taking to prevent the spread of illness within the Convention Center. They’re using temperature checks and verbal questionnaires daily to screen clients for COVID-19. They also instruct clients to wash and sanitize their hands upon each re-entry into the facility.

Additionally, the Village Health Center began the first round of testing for all residents staying in Father Joe’s Villages beds at the Convention Center on Monday, April 27 and will continue testing Convention Center residents and staff regularly.

Adapting to a New Normal

Among all of this change, Lili continues to be a calming source for residents at the San Diego Convention Center, offering them resources and services to help them through this difficult time. Through a balance of compassion and enforcement, she provides her clients with the guidance and stability they need in their journey out of homelessness.

“The people that I am helping keep me going,” Lili said.

Most days, Lili and her team work overtime to ensure clients get the resources they need during this time of crisis. She is proud of her team’s hard work and dedication. For that reason, Lili explains that she often sacrifices her time so her coworkers  can spend a reasonable amount of time with their families at home. 

“I have such a great staff working beside me. They are amazing. This is an uncertain time, and they deserve to be with their families.”

Leading with Kindness 

From the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Father Joe’s Villages’ team working at the San Diego Convention Center have remained on-site for neighbors in need, each and every day. Having been thrown into an entirely new landscape, they continue to work tirelessly to protect the health and safety of those most vulnerable in our community. The consistent empathy they show to individuals who often feel discarded or forgotten by society is crucial in helping them continue their journey out of homelessness, even in this uncertain time. 

On behalf of Father Joe’s Villages leadership, staff, donors and neighbors in need, thank you to Lili and the entire Father Joe’s Villages Residential Staff working at the San Diego Convention Center for continuing to provide protection and compassion to people experiencing homelessness during this health crisis. Their hard work, professionalism and commitment to Father Joe’s Villages’ mission to end homelessness truly highlights their roles as Village Heroes.