The much ballyhooed “low-threshold" homeless shelter on Pier 80 is finally up and running, and with the recent addition of toilets and showers, city officials expect San Francisco's homeless to make their way from Tent City on Division Street to the temporary waterfront shelter. And while this giant tent inside a warehouse has turned heads for a number of reasons, the project's price tag is sure to drop jaws.
For the two months the shelter will be open, CBS 5 reports that the city expects to shell out $1 million each month.* Let's break that down.
Pier 80 doesn't have the best plumbing - in fact, it doesn't have real plumbing at all. This homeless shelter costs taxpayers over $7,000 per month for each bed, anyway.
The Chronicle explains that the shelter has 150 beds, and with 29 days in February this year, that means that the shelter costs $34,482.75 per night to run (one million dollars divided by 29 nights). If you divide the nightly cost by those 150 beds, that comes out to $229.88 per night per bed.
The average nightly rate for Airbnb's in the Bay Area is reportedly $225.
That's right, it is costing the city more to house the homeless in a giant tent in a warehouse on Pier 80 then it would cost to simply rent them all rooms in Airbnb's for two months. All of a sudden the joke proposition to house San Francisco's homeless in Airbnb's starts to sound more reasonable.
CBS 5 notes that the city expects 225 people to stay in the shelter per night, which suggests that some of the 150 beds are double beds. Once again, a little bit of math suggests that on a per-person basis (as opposed to per bed) San Francisco is paying about $150 a night. A quick Hotwire search finds multiple hotel rooms in SF proper going for between $110 and $140 a night for this weekend. Maybe SF should just use the money and get these people hotel rooms that come equipped with actual plumbing, which the temporary shelter does not!
It also important to remember that all of the above calculations assume the shelter operates at 100 percent capacity the entire time it's open — and so far very few have shown up at the shelter, as Nevius noted this week, with only 20 homeless arriving on opening day. As a result, the nightly per-person cost will likely be much higher than the estimated $150 cost.
So why is it so expensive? Well, Trent Rhorer, the Executive Director of San Francisco’s Human Services Agency, says that it is the non-housing costs which drive the overall price tag up.
“We have case workers here, shelter staff, as well as security,” he noted to CBS 5.
If officials ever hope to see the city's homeless population decline, we'll need to continue funding vital services like case workers — services that cost much more than just putting a roof over someone's head.
* As of June, Sam Dodge, the city's "homeless czar," was saying that this $1 million was not correct, and the shelter actually cost $150,000 per month to run.