Under Pressure, City Shifts Plan for Moscone West

A partial victory, but congregate shelters are still being used to house the majority of homeless people

Less than 24 hours after our story “Mayor Breed Opts for Mass Indoor Camps” broke, the City announced a change of approach for addressing the pandemic in shelters. But don’t be misled by the headlines!

The real change, which is significant, is that the city has abandoned its plan to move shelter residents into the Moscone Center, meaning people will not be further concentrated into the mass indoor camp! Instead, the plan is to thin vulnerable people from shelters directly into hotel rooms.

But contrary to most of the coverage of the change thus far, no one will be moved into a hotel room who does not meet the criteria already laid out in the email from Trent Rhorer of San Francisco’s Human Services Agency that drew criticism last week. The City has continued to insist only people older than 60 or with underlying health conditions, or people who test positive for or have been exposed to COVID-19 will be placed in hotels.

That means that most homeless people will not be able to protect themselves until they already have been exposed to the deadly virus. And the process of actually moving exceptionally vulnerable individuals into rooms has been painfully slow, as every person has to be cleared by the Department of Homelessness before moving.

The number of mats being offered at the Moscone Center dropped to 200 and according to Trent Rhorer, those beds will be reserved for people being discharged from San Francisco General Hospital who test negative for COVID-19 or who are in recovery from the virus and no longer a transmission risk. These mats will now apparently be separated by partitions, another change since our initial article. The other mass camp that was set to open at the Palace of Fine Arts will not open.

This is definitely a victory, but it is still a severely inadequate response to this deadly pandemic. There is no excuse for keeping people on the streets or in congregate shelters when 30,000 hotel rooms remain vacant. The Mayor has both the power and the obligation to house every single person in hotels; failing to do so puts thousands of lives at risk.