San Francisco

School Officials in San Francisco Propose Housing Homeless Families Inside Gym

San Francisco Supervisor Hillary Ronen has teamed up with a Mission District elementary School for a proposal that would provide temporary shelter for families struggling with housing security, her office announced Wednesday.

According to officials at Buena Vista Horace Mann K-8 School, located at 3351 23rd St., at least 64 out of 600 families with children enrolled at the school are currently living without safe and stable housing.

The problem, which school officials say has gotten worse in the last two years, prompted them to approach Ronen with the idea of housing families overnight at the school's gymnasium as they find permanent places to live, according to Ronen's office.

"The stories we hear from our families are heartbreaking. There are times when a parent has asked me 'Is there a corner somewhere at the school where we can sleep tonight?'" school principal Richard Zapien said in a statement.

The proposed program would open up one of the school's two gymnasiums for up to 20 families, allowing them to stay in the space from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. the following morning. The families' cots and personal belongings would be packed up and stored daily before school starts.

A nonprofit would be contracted to supervise the day-to-day operations, guided by the city's Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing.

The partnership between the department and the school district was made possible by a resolution passed earlier this year by the district's Board of Education requiring funding and programming in coordination with the housing department to help San Francisco Unified School District students facing housing insecurity.

Eligible families for the program would be identified by the school's social worker. In addition to a place to sleep, the families would also have access to case managers to assist them with finding permanent housing, according to Ronen's office.

"Unfortunately, our housing crisis is so severe in San Francisco, that teachers, students and administrators are spending an enormous amount of school time to address unsafe and insecure housing of students," Ronen said in a statement.

"I am fully supportive of helping the school realize this plan by making sure that city funds and contracted service providers address this essential need of students so school staff can concentrate on their core function -- educating our students," she said.

The city's budget, not school or staff resources, would fund start-up costs and maintenance operations. If approved, the program could begin as early as October, pending funding, according to Ronen's office.

According to the school district, during the 2015-2016 school year about one in 25 students reported experiencing housing instability by living with friends or family, at temporary shelters, at short-term motels, in cars or on the streets.

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