San Francisco works to move homeless out of hotels and into long-term housing

San Francisco's shelter-in-place hotel program for it's unhoused residents is coming to an end.

The city said work is underway to make sure those who are staying in the hotels don't end up back on the streets.

In April 2020, not long after the COVID pandemic grew as a looming threat, San Francisco mobilized to get unhoused residents out of large congregate settings. They moved 3,700 people into 25 shelter in place hotels around the city.

The city's Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing (HSH) said the program was always a temporary measure, and now is winding down.

"This program was an emergency response supported by FEMA and was really always intended to be temporary," said Emily Cohen of HSH.

The department said it's working to capitalize on this unique opportunity and has already transitioned 915 people out of the shelter in place hotels and into longer term housing solutions.

"As we move through the pandemic, move toward recovery we learn more about COVID, we really want to ensure that we build on the opportunity we've had to build on these relationships over the last 20 months with people in the SIP hotels and transition them into permanent homes," said Cohen.

Nicole McDonald is in a shelter and is trying to transition out of homelessness. She said she's frustrated that more people aren't being allowed in.

"I'm staying in there myself, and I'm seeing that they're not letting people in the shelters," said McDonald. "They're putting more people out of the shelters, they're telling them it's no beds available."

The Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing said the city's shelters are not yet operating at full capacity. The department said it's not as simple as filling up beds. There has to be wraparound services for those seeking shelter, and with the omicron variant still posing a threat, safety must be paramount.

"Congregate shelter continues to play a very important role in the homeless response, but we need to do it responsibly within a COVID context," said Cohen.

The city said it's aiming to close the last of the shelter-in-place hotels by September.