Nearly one in every 10 of San Francisco’s permanent supportive housing units — earmarked for people experiencing homelessness — is now sitting empty. The number of vacant units has climbed 58% since September and now represents 9.9% of the permanent supportive housing stock.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency will retroactively reimburse states 100% of the cost for shelter-in-place hotels, dating back to January 2020, the White House announced Tuesday.
The announcement comes less than two weeks after the Biden administration pledged to fully fund hotels used to house homeless people over 65 or with compromised health going forward. Previously, municipalities were responsible for 25% of the costs.
San Francisco is willing to open more hotel rooms to the homeless but may face roadblocks from hotel owners and service providers who would be needed to staff the sites.
On Monday, the city’s Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing sent a letter to community organizations outlining a rough plan to address an influx of funds expected from the Biden administration, which said it will fully reimburse local governments the cost of temporarily housing COVID-vulnerable homeless people in hotels. But the city’s letter comes with a caveat.
In an attempt to limit police involvement with emergency calls about homelessness, a city group is proposing eliminating a multimillion-dollar program launched in 2018.
The group, composed of representatives of about two dozen city agencies and non-profits, released a 74-page paper Tuesday outlining its plan, called the Compassionate Alternative Response Team.
Recent corruption scandals at City Hall highlight the need for good-government reforms, especially after efforts to create a public advocate’s office failed in July 2020. “It was a lost opportunity,” said David Campos, former supervisor and current chief of staff for District Attorney Chesa Boudin. The measure benefitted from precedents set in cities across the country that were similarly wracked by graft and mismanagement, including Detroit, Chicago and New York.
The FBI arrest of former San Francisco Department of Public Works head Mohammed Nuru on fraud charges in January kicked off a cascade of raids, charges and investigations that have spurred the departure of several other city department heads. Such investigations can take years, and are relatively difficult to complete. James Wedick, who retired from the FBI in 2004 after nearly 35 years with the bureau, spent years investigating corruption and was responsible for the bureau’s corruption squad in Sacramento.
Nearly four dozen groups announced Wednesday their opposition to San Francisco’s efforts to combat rampant drug dealing in the Tenderloin by using injunctions to increase penalties for dealers.
On Wednesday morning, a coalition of 45 organizations, including the public defender’s office, homeless advocates, immigration rights groups, drug policy organizations and youth-based nonprofits, held a press conference to express their opposition to the strategy. In a Dec. 3 letter to City Attorney Dennis Herrera, they said the injunctions are “draconian and wasteful,” and do little to address concerns around drug dealing and overdoses.
The city will house more people in hotel rooms than it had planned thanks to a law the Board of Supervisors passed unanimously Tuesday.
The legislation, drafted by Supervisor Matt Haney, establishes an emergency ordinance that requires the city to continue its practice of housing homeless people in hotel rooms while COVID-19 remains a risk. Emergency ordinances are used to rapidly respond to crises such as pandemics, and last 60 days.
Facing the high costs of pandemic response, San Francisco officials are making a play for a pile of cash that voters created through a 2018 ballot measure. But many of their proposals for that money lose sight of what voters had in mind when they passed Proposition C, says the measure’s author. That was to finally turn the homelessness crisis around. Proposition C established a gross-receipts tax on large businesses, netting hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue that was locked up in court until September. City staff last week appealed to the fund’s oversight committee, requesting money to cover recent expenses and expand existing programs, including a pharmacy run by the Department of Public Health. But these are hardly the types of results that voters expected, said Jennifer Friedenbach, who wrote the ballot measure and is the executive director of the Coalition on Homelessness.
Some city supervisors are pushing to continue using hotel rooms occupied by vulnerable homeless residents during the pandemic for a second cohort after current room residents are moved into other housing. Proponents say that despite a possible loss of federal emergency funds, discontinuing the program too soon would leave thousands unsheltered during the health emergency.