Shelter From The Storm?

By Cat Callaway

City Plans For Some New Shelter Beds in Anticipation of El Niño Rains

The potential impact of the El Niño weather conditions requires preparation to protect property and persons. The homeless, facing the cold, the wet and the flooding head-on, most often with the aid only of a blanket or bedroll, are particularly vulnerable. It is the City of San Francisco that the public has tasked with the allocation of tax dollars to meet this vital need for services. It is our Mayor at work.

A search for El Niño emergency services for the homeless began with a call to 311, A part of the City’s Health Services Agency (HSA). The on-going services, including the Winter Shelters, were provided in response to what services the City is putting in place to protect the homeless from the aggressive winter weather and precipitation resulting from El Niño. The 311 operator, while friendly and attempting to be helpful, suggested that a call to HAS might be in order. Since that is who she works for, it seemed a little training may be in order.

Finally, on November 25, Mayor Lee and San Francisco Interfaith Council Executive Director Michael Pappas issued a statement that shelter would be provided for all seeking it through the Winter Partnership every night through February 27, 2016.

The Mayor also took the opportunity to praise his commitment of $40 million of budget funds for homeless programs, including the year round operation of women’s winter shelters. Promises 500 new units of supportive housing, increased staffing within supportive housing and $3 million to expand his Navigation Center model. He announced the creation of a Navigation Partnership Fund to receive private funds delegated to the Navigation model.

The immediate program, for the protection of what the mayor refers to as the City’s “Most vulnerable,” that is the homeless, is the promised shelter for all seeking it through this program for the period of November 22, 2015 through February 27, 2016. The Mayor feels sure the location of these shelters throughout the City will make them accessible to all.

For those seeking shelter through this Winter Shelter Program, spaces are reserved on a first come, first served basis each Sunday. The reservation ticket will allow the guest a seven-night stay. Spaces are not reserved through the regular adult emergency shelter reservation system, CHANGES.

The Winter Partnership shelters are as follows. Apparently no such shelters are needed for women.

Winter Shelter Schedule for Single, Male Adults:

St. Boniface Church located at 133 Golden Gate Avenue and Leavenworth Street will be open from Sunday, November 22, 2015 through Friday, December 11, 2015.

St. Mark’s Lutheran Church located at 1031 Franklin Street and O’Farrell Street will be open from Saturday, December 12, 2015 through Tuesday, December 15, 2015 and will reopen next year on Sunday, January 17, 2016 through Saturday, February 6, 2016.

Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Assumption located at 1111 Gough Street and Geary Street will be open from Wednesday, December 16, 2015 through Saturday, January 16, 2016

First Unitarian Universalist Society of San Francisco located at 1187 Franklin Street and Geary Street will be open from Sunday, February 7, 2016 through Saturday, February 27, 2016.

Mats, blankets and hygiene kits will be provided and two meals will be served. The Health Department will provide physical and mental health triage on site at each shelter. Those entering these shelters may bring pets and belongings.

With the National Weather Service predicting 95% chance of severe El Niño storm patterns this year. The homeless should make plans for what will most likely be severe rain, wind and cold resulting in flooding, power outages, landslides and mudslides.

Based on the last city-wide homeless count, this increase in shelter will account for about 30% of the need for shelter. We hope if folks start getting turned away from shelter during the rains, that the city will quickly expand the number of beds available.