SAN FRANCISCO (AP) – San Francisco is paying $ 16.1 million to feed and house people in tented villages as the city grapples with a growing homeless population. But the cost worries some lawmakers.
Since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, six tent sites, known as “safe sleeping villages”, have been set up to protect people who might otherwise be sleeping on the sidewalks.
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More than 300 people are currently accommodated in the 262 tents, some of which are free. The villages also offer access to bathrooms, meals, and 24-hour security, the San Francisco Chronicle reported Thursday.
Funding is only a fraction of the more than $ 300 million the city spends annually on homeless services, and the average nightly cost is less than what the city pays for a hotel accommodation program for the homeless, so the chronicle.
However, the federal government cannot reimburse the tenting program. Some lawmakers say the program is too expensive, especially when the city faces a projected budget deficit of $ 650 million over the next two years.
“It’s breathtaking and we have to understand why that is,” said supervisor Rafael Mandelman. “We have to find a way to get off the streets, but we need it to be cheaper.”
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The program is funded from state and municipal funds and revenue from a 2018 business tax.
The city had to rush to create shelters as indoor spaces were closed to the homeless due to COVID-19 concerns, Abigail Stewart-Kahn, interim director of the homeless section, said at a budget committee hearing on Wednesday.
The city didn’t have time for a more thorough bidding process and also had to provide water and electricity connections for the sites that are on vacant lots, Stewart-Kahn said.
“I understand the motivation to create (safe) sleeping space during this COVID-19 crisis,” said supervisor Ahsha Safaí. “But we have to dive really deep to see if this is a sustainable model … with no federal reimbursement.”
Stewart-Kahn said her department is analyzing the program.
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