SAN FRANCISCO - San Francisco supervisors are pushing to keep the city's shelter-in-place hotel program open with the COVID-19 pandemic still wreaking havoc on the community.
Supervisors Matt Haney, Shamann Walton, and Dean Preston announced new legislation to keep 2,300 hotel rooms, which currently serve as safe spaces for some unhoused residents, open as the city works to solidify permanent housing solutions.
The legislation is in response to San Francisco's COVID Command Centers timeline of moving 500 unhoused residents out of hotel rooms by Dec. 21 and closing the 29 hotels by June, a plan that supervisors say is rushed and will only result in more people sleeping on the streets.
Haney said the city's hotel program helped stem the virus' spread and saved lives and to do away with the program as cases tick up would be a fickle move.
"There is no reason to dismantle this critical cost-effective public health intervention, in the middle of a surge in the virus, in the cold rainy season, without a clear plan for the health of thousands mostly elderly, vulnerable people in the hotels now," he said. "We should absolutely be matching people with housing as soon as it is available, but closing hotels prematurely, without adequate placements for those in the hotels or those still living on the streets, is irresponsible, reckless, and cruel."
The legislation seeks to halt the rapid end of the hotel program and emove the pressure to immediately push people out and instead ensure all residents leave the hotel with stable housing as it is made available,
The Shelter-In-Place Hotel Program was introduced in April and in August the city's board of supervisors approved a $178 million budget to keep the program running. Supervisors said that money has not been touched yet.
City officials feel the COVID Command Center's plan is minuscule in that it only covers housing for a small portion of hotel residents.
In a statement, Supervisor Walton said, "We have resources in place that could address securing and continuing to fund SIP hotels and we have additional resource opportunities that have been identified, whether it be ERAF, possible federal stimulus, proposition C allocations and state resources like Project Room Key and the governor’s announcement of an additional 62 million dollars to provide support for individuals experiencing homelessness."
An estimated 85% or more of the individuals and families sheltering in the SIP Hotels are considered vulnerable, defined as over 65 and/or with pre-existing medical conditions.