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A special message and COVID-19 updates from The Center

A special message and COVID-19 updates from The Center

With so many changes and updates in the ongoing fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, I am reaching out with an update about our Center, including:

  • Status of critical Center services & programs
  • Status of our facility updates
  • Main Center facility reopening plans

This note is longer than usual, but I take our role as a trusted messenger seriously and want our LGBTQ community to have as much information as we can provide.  

HEALTH AND SAFETY 

We know that, compared to earlier forms of COVID-19, the Delta variant strain of COVID-19 is even more infectious and presents a bigger challenge to even a vaccinated immune system. It can cause more severe illness than previous strains in unvaccinated persons. The vaccine is still the most powerful tool against the COVID-19 virus, as it severely decreases the likelihood of hospitalization or death. Last week, the County of San Diego, in an effort to further protect public health, recommended that all employers require their employees to show proof of vaccination. The Center has also partnered with the County of San Diego in support of Live Well San Diego to help all our community members access a COVID-19 vaccine. If you would like assistance in getting the vaccine or making your appointment, please contact us at (619) 736-0207 or vaccine@thecentersd.org.  

Also, as you have likely heard, the CDC currently recommends wearing masks in public indoor settings regardless of vaccination status in areas of substantial or high transmission, and San Diego County falls into that category. Many health experts also advise that vaccinated people wear a mask if they are outdoors with people whose vaccination status is unknown. And although breakthrough infections in vaccinated people are rare, we recommend taking every step possible to keep yourself, and others, safe and healthy. 

THE CENTER'S SERVICES

As we have since the beginning of the pandemic, The Center is still working at full capacity to serve our LGBTQ community through this pandemic. We continue to serve the most vulnerable in our LGBTQ community by providing in-person Emergency Services with all safety protocols in place. These services include our Housing Services such as Sunburst Youth Housing and LGBTQ Safe S.T.A.Y.; Food Banks, Food Resources, Meal and Non-Perishable Food Delivery; HIV testing by appointment; 1:1 Case Management for youth from Hillcrest Youth Center (HYC) and South Bay Youth Center (SBYC); and vaccine education and clinics.    

We also continue to offer all of our other services virtually including Support & Discussion Groups, Behavioral Health Services, Rental Relief, our Queer Youth Leadership Council and Young Professionals Council, an Emergency Referral & Resource Phone Line, and our Training Institute. So many in our community have faced ongoing and emerging challenges and have reached out to us for support, and we have answered the call to help! We want you to know we are always here for you. If you need any of The Center's Services, please call 619.800.4252 from 9am - 4pm or 619.800.4216 from 4pm - 9pm or email frontdesk@thecentersd.org.  

The Center's fundraising efforts have been critical during this pandemic, as the funds we raise make all the services we provide possible for our community. We have reimagined our fundraising events, in order to hold them safely, adhering to all health protocols, while creating opportunities to connect in community and support our Center. We restructured Tantrums & Tiaras and the Harvey Milk Diversity Breakfast to offer them virtually, and reshaped Dining Out For Life San Diego and AIDS Walk & Run San Diego to safely bring community together. If you haven't already signed up for this year's 4-Day AIDS Walk & Run, you can do so here. Broad community support at every level makes our services and programs possible! And, The Center does so much more than services and programs, we are regional advocates, fighting for our community, including our right to vote.  

In service to the broader community, as well as our LGBTQ community, The Center will serve as one of the County’s 131 official ballot drop-off locations for the Special Recall Election and will be an in-person polling location from Saturday, September 11th through Tuesday, September 14th. Voters can drop off their ballots at any ballot drop-off location or vote at any in-person voting location, no matter where you live. We ask that when you come vote at The Center, please adhere to all current safety protocols. We hope to see you there to make your voice heard in this critical election!

FACILITIES UPDATE & REOPENING PLANS 

Like many organizations and businesses in our region, conversations around reopening and resuming normal operations have changed dramatically in the last four weeks, as the Delta variant has caused new cases to rise rapidly, once again. Many of us were looking forward to a fall with COVID behind us, and are now feeling a range of emotions as we take steps backward in our fight against this pandemic. At The Center, the staff who work in-person, including at our Main Center location (3909 Centre St.), continue to operate using safety protocols. We are so proud that we have not had a single instance of a staff member contracting COVID-19 at work in 18 months, so we know those measures are working! Every Center staff member continues to work hard, innovate, and find new ways to help and support, so The Center can continue to serve our amazing and diverse LGBTQ community. 

We want to share an update about what The Center has been doing during the pandemic to maximize safety for all staff and clients and improve our facilities. At Sunburst Youth Housing Project, after being awarded a Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) by the City of San Diego, we embarked on a 13-week improvement project. The building's roof was replaced with a cool-flat roof system and the exterior of the building was repaired with patching and a stucco paint coating, which will protect against water from storms. We also replaced the remaining 43 single-pane aluminum windows with double-pane vinyl high efficient, clear glass that will further secure the structure against wind, water, noise, and pollution, while increasing energy efficiency of the building and units. Lastly, we replaced two double exterior emergency exit doors with fire-rated steel doors that allow safe exit routes for residents.

At our Main Center, we are upgrading our HVAC system to be state-of-the-art, in order to provide the cleanest air to our staff and community in the building, given that COVID is airborne. After receiving much community feedback, we have renovated the downstairs restrooms! We are also in the process of reimagining our lobby to be a more welcoming, safe, modern, and beautiful space! When we fully reopen the Main Center to the public, you will see new flooring throughout the entire main first floor, a new community room space, new lighting, art, safer stairs, and fresh paint. Additionally, after several years of wear and tear, we are replacing the floors in the auditorium, and installing new exterior cameras for safety.  

Our exact timeline for projects and construction has been delayed twice due to industry-wide product shortages for our HVAC installation and raw materials for the lobby. We are consistently evaluating the status of the project, and in the downtime, moving forward with the other main facility improvements. As we have always said, we will reopen when it is safe to do so for everyone, as we so value every community member's health and well-being. Currently, we estimate that we will be fully reopened by Thanksgiving; with the ever-changing dynamics of the pandemic, including the impacts of new variants, this is subject to change. We are putting together safety options for staff in advance of a phased approach to fully returning to work and will continue to keep you up to date on timeline updates. Be sure to follow us on social media, tell your friends to sign up to receive our weekly e-news, and check our website for the most up-to-date information. We look forward to fully reopening our doors to the public! 

Thank you all for your support, advocacy, participation, donations, as well as words of solidarity and encouragement for The Center, our staff, board, and clients since March 2020 and beyond. As we always have, we will get through this together!