San Francisco Drags Feet Moving Tenderloin Residents into Shelter-in-Place Hotels

While the Tenderloin Plan began to be implemented on Thursday, only 16 people were moved into hotels, a mere 5% of the 300 person goal.

Friday, June 12th — Early Thursday morning, San Francisco’s Health Streets Operation Command (HSOC) arrived in the Tenderloin under the pretense of placing at least 300 of the Tenderloin’s unhoused residents into Shelter-in-Place Hotels. Clutching their lists of names, city workers scrambled down Turk street struggling to locate some of the people on their list that they would be moving into a nearby hotel, two blocks away. As they drove off at 12:45pm today, they had moved just 5% of their 300 person goal to hotel rooms. 

While white paratransit vans idled on the streets of the Tenderloin, unhoused neighbors were forced to hurriedly cram their belongings into two small bags and board the ominous van socially distanced in groups of 1, 2, or 3 with one couple even being separated from each other due to the manic rush and anxieties over the lack of communication. At the same time, they had only 4 ADA rooms available for placement.  After over three hours of work, City data shows that only 16 people were moved into the hotel, barely a quarter mile from where the vans had been parked in the morning.  

“At this rate, it will take close to a year to place people into hotel rooms.  Folks are out here on the street dying, while rooms are sitting empty.  Can’t the city just open up hotel rooms and let people move in?” implored Chelsea Crumpler, a homeless outreach worker and Tenderloin resident. “They are making it too complicated.”  

Back in April the Board of Supervisors passed a unanimous emergency ordinance requiring Mayor Breed to move 8,000 people into hotel rooms by the end of the month. More than a month later only 1,258 unhoused people have been moved inside while thousands of hotel rooms sit empty across the City. Both Mayor Breed and Health Officer Tomas Aragon have emergency powers that allow them to commandeer hotel rooms and vacant units to move people inside during this pandemic. So far they have refused. 

Advocates have long argued that the city should have moved whole shelter operations into hotels, and triage to hotels with regular hotel staffing those unhoused residents who need no additional support, leaving those in need of additional support in hotels staffed by former shelter operators. In addition, the Coalition on Homelessness has called for all unhoused people to be placed in hotels, bypassing complicated eligibility criteria and giving everyone an opportunity to shelter in place.  

As recently as Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors’ meeting, Mayor London Breed claimed that the City had moved over “2,000 homeless people into hotel rooms” and that her “comprehensive” Tenderloin plan represented her commitment to addressing homelessness during a global pandemic and shelter-in-place. However, City data identifies only 1,194 hotel units being used for Vulnerable unhoused community members and an additional 64 for COVID-positive unhoused San Franciscans. Moreover, Breed’s Tenderloin plan, released just two days after a lawsuit filed by UC Hastings demanding the city address tent encampments, has led to absolutely no discernible results.