San Diego County supervisors have ordered an independent review of the county’s COVID-19 hotel sheltering program. The action last week came eight days after an inewsource investigation uncovered problems at the main isolation hotel, the Crowne Plaza in Mission Valley.

Hotel guests and employees told inewsource the program is mismanaged — people don’t get medication on time, toddlers went days without adequate food and security guards harass people staying there under a public health order. The county has a $30 million contract with Equus Workforce Solutions to provide services to people in these hotels who have nowhere else to go. 

Why this matters

San Diego County is spending millions of dollars to house people affected by COVID-19 in hotels. Some have tested positive or have symptoms, while others have health issues that put them at risk. Many are homeless and have no other place to safely isolate.

Details about who would conduct the review for the supervisors and how much it would cost have not yet been made public. 

Board Chair Nathan Fletcher asked for the review during a regular coronavirus update at the March 2 Board of Supervisors’ meeting. The review is “in response to some of the concerns around what we’re doing on hotels,” he said.

Fletcher asked that regional experts conduct the review and that staff report back to the board within 90 days. The report should include lessons learned and how to apply best practices when providing services to unsheltered people, he said. The board unanimously approved the action.

Fletcher’s office and county staff have not provided further details that inewsource sought this week.

When the pandemic began last March, the county took over the Crowne Plaza and other hotels to temporarily house people who needed somewhere to stay. The goal was twofold: to isolate people who test positive or come in contact with the virus and to protect people who are at-risk for developing severe illness.

But county staff quickly became overwhelmed. In an email inewsource obtained last spring, one employee told colleagues she was “pushing and begging and pleading for additional staff” to help provide adequate support. 

Two months after that inewsource investigation, which uncovered a spike in police calls, a lapse in mental health care and a suicide death at the Crowne Plaza, county officials hired Equus to take over the hotel sheltering program. 

But the problems have continued under Equus’ management. One employee, Turquoise Teagle, said the county isn’t paying enough attention, relying only on daily video calls with staff. 

When asked about this during a COVID-19 news conference last month, Fletcher said county staff does conduct site visits and inspections, and they take all complaints seriously.

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“It’s a very challenging situation and a very difficult situation, but we will continue to strive to do everything we can to make every possible improvement, tweak or change to make that as successful an operation as possible,” he said.

inewsource investigative data reporter Jill Castellano contributed to this report.

Type of Content

News: Based on facts, either observed and verified directly by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

Cody Dulaney is an investigative reporter at inewsource focusing on social impact and government accountability. Few things excite him more than building spreadsheets and knocking on the door of people who refuse to return his calls. When he’s not ruffling the feathers of some public official, Cody...