As San Francisco expands a hotel program to rent rooms for the vulnerable homeless during the pandemic, the city is facing a roadblock: some residents find it more attractive than another permanent option.
Shelter-in-place hotels, which opened to vulnerable homeless people during the pandemic, offer private rooms with bathrooms and three meals a day. However, the program is only temporary. In contrast, newly available permanent supportive housing in a recently renovated hotel has shared bathroom facilities and charges 30% of a resident’s income as rent.
To date, around 70% of emergency shelters have offered places in the renovated 232-unit Granada Hotel, which the state bought for $ 45 million last year. Abigail Stewart-Kahn, interim director of the Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing, announced regulators last week.
“We have seen a decline in the rate of people living in temporary shelters, unlike anything else in San Francisco when they were offered permanent supportive shelter,” said Stewart-Kahn. “That is basically understandable.”
She said, “We have never had shelter more beautiful in many ways” than permanent supportive shelter.
“We respect people’s right to turn down their housing agency,” she said, adding that the city would work on more options.
This poses a problem for the city, which has made a pledge not to kick anyone who moved into a shelter-in-place hotel and is undergoing a renovation program before November 15 last year. The city is now trying to find permanent places before federal refunds may expire by October. According to the city, almost 61% of hotel residents have not yet received a transfer.
The Board of Supervisors passed an emergency ordinance on Tuesday that aims to move 560 more homeless people to emergency shelters over the next two months. The ordinance will expand the federally reimbursed program that rents hotel rooms to around 2,000 vulnerable homeless people, occupies even more hotel rooms and provides permanent living space for residents who want to qualify and move.
Keegan Medrano of the Coalition for Homelessness criticized the city for what he saw as shifting the blame on residents for refusing internships. Medrano said permanent supportive housing doesn’t have the best reputation among the homeless.
“We are in a difficult position where we want people to move into supportive housing on a permanent basis, but honestly a lot of it is unacceptable and not in good shape,” said Medrano. “Many don’t have WiFi, they don’t have good air filter systems. They are hot, they are small, they gather. “
Medrano said he hoped residents realized that the hotel had offered a place in the Granada, that the hotel had been newly renovated, which may be different from other permanent supporting housing units. Medrano urged officials to invest in en-suite locations while the city is considering buying more hotels to convert them into housing.
The city is currently trying to deliver on its promise made by an ordinance of the Board of Directors, which is expected to be extended on Tuesday, to find permanent accommodation for hotel residents. Hundreds of units are currently empty and the Granada Hotel is only half full, the homelessness department said. If hotel residents decline seats, the city can offer them to other eligible persons. Supervisors and supporters say more than 600 people still on the street are ready to document to move in.
Mallory Moench is a contributor to the San Francisco Chronicle. Email: email@example.com Twitter: @mallorymoench