San Mateo County has tapped the nonprofit Samaritan House as the interim operator of the Coatside’s first homeless shelter.

The decision came late last week, just days after the county Board of Supervisors approved the purchase of the Coastside Inn and its conversion into a shelter with social services for individuals experiencing homelessness.

Between four and six residents are expected to move in this month as part of a short-term pilot program. A long-term operator, which will be responsible for case management when the 52-room shelter is at or near full occupancy, has yet to be selected.

“I think it’s in everybody's best interest to get it up and running as soon as possible,” said Ken Cole, director of the county’s Human Services Agency.

The county’s acquisition of the Coastside Inn is modeled after the state’s Project Homekey program, which supports

the conversion of hotels into interim and permanent housing using a combination of CARES Act and state funds. Two hotels in Redwood City were acquired in recent weeks using Project Homekey funds, while the Coastside Inn will be paid for using CARES Act funds given to the county.

The CARES Act requires that the purchase of the Coastside Inn be completed by Dec. 30. When that happens, the county wants to be ready to hit the ground with tested ideas it can build on, Cole said.

Cole said the deadline is not driving the occupancy of the building but that the county is beginning the pilot to chip away at the ongoing need for shelter during the pandemic in what has been a hotel that closed only recently.

The county is negotiating an interim use agreement with the Coastside Inn’s owner, KN Properties, to begin occupancy before the sale is expected to close at the end of this month.

The county will use the pilot to fulfill one of its promises to the city of Half Moon Bay: to earmark the Coastside Inn’s rooms for individuals from the Coastside. Cole said the county created its criteria around this preference and the handful of individuals who will be the new shelter’s first residents will be vetted for their connection to the Coastside.

Cole said the county is working with Samaritan House and Life Moves, another shelter operator, to determine if any of the 180 individuals currently living in short-term, county-leased hotels have connections to the Coastside.

Samaritan House will be responsible for providing on-site case management aimed at getting people permanently housed. To do this, Bart Charlow, CEO of Samaritan House, said his organization connects residents to a range of services, from drug rehabilitation to employment skills training.

“It’s not just a roof and meals,” Charlow said.

Charlow said his staff will draw from their experience running the Safe Harbor group shelter in South San Francisco and a 90-bed motel shelter during the pandemic. At both locations, a team of case managers helps residents make and keep health care, mental health counseling and jobs training appointments, offered either through Samaritan House’s Redwood City clinic or through partner agencies elsewhere in the county.

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