Advocates fight back against homeless rehousing plan amid COVID-19 surge

Bay Area

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. (KRON) – As coronavirus cases now surge in San Francisco, the city is still moving forward with its plan to move nearly 2,300 homeless people out of shelter-in-place hotel rooms.

It’s part of the shelter in place rehousing program, where the city will close hotels and rehouse people in four phases.

However, city leaders and homeless advocates are speaking out against the plan amid the surge in cases.

“At the end of the day, if you’re pausing indoor dining, if you’re pausing gyms, you should also pause closing down hotels that are going to lead to more people out on the streets. It seems to me to be common sense,” said San Francisco supervisor Matt Haney.

He says closing these hotels, which has been a critical component of the city’s COVID-19 response is dangerous.

While the city cites the cost as a reason for closures, he says a majority of the expenses will be reimbursed by the state and federal government.

Additionally, “it’s a safer place to be in. It’s also much cheaper to take care of folks in there than it is when they end up in the ICU,” Haney said.

In the first phase of the city’s rehousing program, 500 people will move out of seven hotels that are closing by the end of next month. 

But homeless advocate groups like the coalition on homelessness say the city’s continuing with a plan that isn’t complete.

“So far in the information they’ve given, they have placements for about a quarter of people in this first set of seven hotels that are closing. So there’s 499 people so it’s not lined up yet. There’s no reason to close it right now.”

When asked if they’d be making changes to their plan, the Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing responded by saying, “no one who chooses to participate in the rehousing process will exit to the street and we’ll be assessing our goals for rehousing and refining as we move forward in phases.”

However, they didn’t provide specific details when later asked if all 500 people had secure rehousing placements.

City leaders, like Matt Haney, say they’re pushing to put a pause on the closure of these hotels.

He also plans to introduce legislation that would require reporting to board on this issue.

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