Five San Francisco supervisors on Tuesday called for the city to increase the amount of hotel rooms for homeless people amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, following news the Federal Emergency Management Agency will be reimbursing the city for the hotels.
Currently, through the city's Shelter-In-Place, or SIP, hotel program, the city is providing about 1,850 hotel rooms for people experiencing homelessness, including families, transitional aged youth and single adults, many of whom are considered high risk; those with an pre-existing health conditions; or those 65 and older.
In November, the city announced it would move to end the SIP hotel program in phases and place residents in permanent stable housing.
City officials said the program would end because of uncertainty around whether FEMA would cover the program's $178 million annual price tag. But in light of an announcement by U.S. President Joe Biden that FEMA will reimburse counties for 100 percent of eligible hotels retroactive to January 2020, supervisors Matt Haney, Dean Preston, Hillary Ronen, Myrna Melgar and Board President Shamman Walton on Tuesday introduced an emergency ordinance to provide more hotel rooms for homeless people and families.
The proposed ordinance calls for the city to raise the amount of SIP hotel rooms to 2,200. Haney said, "With FEMA's announcement that they will fully fund the shelter in place hotels, we have an unprecedented opportunity to protect hundreds more vulnerable homeless neighbors from COVID and help people on a path out of homelessness permanently. It would be irresponsible and dangerous to continue business as usual, with the federal government affirming how critical our shelter in place program is, and with thousands still stranded on our city's sidewalks, alleys and doorsteps."
"Everyone should have a safe place to shelter in place, period," Preston said. "Every day that an unhoused person stays in a hotel is a day they can catch their breath enough to troubleshoot their circumstances, apply for services and housing, reconnect with family, and figure out next steps. Housing people has no downside."
"The Biden Administration's recent announcement that 100% of shelter in place hotel costs will be reimbursed by the federal government means there is no excuse not to make shelter in place hotels available to all those who need them. We can and must do the right thing and make sure people who are experiencing homelessness are safe through the remainder of this deadly pandemic," Ronen said.