SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — San Francisco Supervisors on Monday were set to unveil a plan to shelter homeless people in thousands of available hotel rooms to protect them from the spread of the coronavirus.

Supervisors Hillary Ronen, Matt Haney, Dean Preston, Shamann Walton and Aaron Peskin are announcing a resolution to protect homeless people from the virus by sheltering them in hotel rooms, and citing “a lack of action or clarity on the local public health guidance for homeless individuals living in unsheltered or in congregate shelters.

During what they called City Hall’s first virtual press conference, the supervisors cited 33,000 vacant hotel rooms and the urgent need to interrupt the spread of COVID-19 among homeless shelters and encampments, and called on the Public Health Officer to issue an order prioritizing private rooms over congregate settings for people experiencing homelessness.

“We are imagining ways to protect one another that wouldn’t have been possible two weeks ago because this pandemic had made us realize that our individual well being is connected to that of the whole. If we have empty hotel rooms and someone doesn’t have a home to shelter in place, we must lend them the room. This isn’t just what the Doctors tell us is the best way to protect public safety, it’s common sense,” said Ronen.

The city’s homeless shelters are at capacity with people sleeping in close quarters, and without any screening or testing guidelines, the supervisors said.

“It is dangerous and reckless to leave thousands of people in our city out on the streets, or in congregate shelters where we know the virus can spread quickly. Hotels are stepping up, workers are stepping up, our city can step up and secure the thousands of hotel rooms needed for first responders, people who may have been exposed to COVID-19, and people who are unhoused,” said Haney.

“There is no question that our city needs to do everything in our power to get people out of congregate living situations and into private rooms and apartments immediately,” said Preston.

The resolution announced Monday will be introduced Tuesday at the Board of Supervisors meeting. It demands:

  • The Public Health Officer issue a new Health Order mandating that homeless individuals in congregate emergency shelters be placed in private rooms immediately even if they aren’t exhibiting symptoms, as well as mandating “shelter-thinning” and strict social distancing requirements in congregate emergency shelters, and strict screening protocols.
  • The SF Human Services Agency and Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing urgently procure rooms and mobilize hotel vouchers to get: people who are currently in congregate emergency shelters into private rooms; people who are currently unsheltered on the streets or in encampments in private rooms; and people who are being released from incarceration into private rooms, rather than shelters or encampments.
  • Governor Newsom secure rooms in San Francisco for the primary purpose of getting people who are currently unsheltered on the streets or in encampments inside in private rooms, similar to his actions in Oakland.

There are an estimated 8,000 homeless people in San Francisco, according to the city’s Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing. Across the Bay Area, there are an estimated 30,000 people experiencing homelessness, and about 108,000 across the state.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom has so far authorized $150 million for local cities to find shelter for homeless, dispatched about 1,300 travel trailers, and identified nearly 1,000 hotels that could be leased to house homeless people.

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