On the heels of District 5 Supervisor Dean Preston putting $10K of his own money toward a private fund that will help house unsheltered San Franciscans at the Oasis Inn during the COVID-19 pandemic, the City of SF announced yesterday they’ve now secured leases for around 300 hotel rooms.
Suffice to say now’s not exactly the most suitable — or, frankly, socially responsible — time to book a domestic family vacation or platonic group getaway. And, as we all know by now, virtually every large tech conference and music festival has either been scheduled months out… or just flat-out canceled. An outcome of all this? San Francisco is brimming with unoccupied hotel rooms amid a global pandemic, spaces the City will soon use to house at-risk and homeless inhabitants.
“Most hotel rooms in San Francisco are empty right now,” said SF District 6 Superivce Matt Haney to KTVU. “There are only 3-5% of the rooms are occupied, which means tens of thousands of empty rooms right now.”
Earlier this week, fellow San Francisco supervisor and savvy Twitter tactician Dean Preston stated that he’d recently put $10k (of his own money) toward holding rooms for vulnerable people at the Oasis Inn near the Civic Center. Preston’s charity went directly into a fund set up by the nonprofit Providence Foundation of San Francisco; the local philanthropic touchstone aims to improve the “quality of life in low-income communities and to empower individuals to become self-reliant,” with their recent efforts to house disenfranchised San Franciscans serving as evidence of just that.
And Friday, San Francisco city officials published in a statement that they have now secured leases for some 300 hotel rooms in order to house people who are under self-quarantine for COVID-19 — but, alas, don’t have a place to do so.
The San Francisco Mayor Office’s statement on the update reads as follows:
The City continues to negotiate hotel leases to support additional populations, including Seniors and vulnerable adults in Laguna Honda Hospital and others in congregate facilities who can be in hotel rooms with a relatively low level of care; COVID-19-exposed and COVID-19-positive frontline health care workers and other first responders; and vulnerable populations who are living unsheltered on the street (age 60+ and those with underlying health conditions).
However, given that San Francisco, by some estimates, possesses a homeless population north of 9K individuals, those 300 rooms are simply not sufficient. Worrying further: COVID-19 has an “R naught” — the metric used by disease specialists to rank the communicability of an infectious pathogen — score of around R2.2, making it one of the most transferable viral agents science has seen in recent history. (By contrast, the flu has an R naught score of R1.3.)
Without satisfactory quarantine measures given to our city’s homeless, the disease is likely to run rampant through their communities. Also, sans proper housing for such people during the current pandemic and in absence of “herd immunity,” the risk of secondary breakouts of the novel coronavirus in San Francisco is exponentially higher. Moral of the story: If we don’t support and protect our city’s most vulnerable and in need, we’ll all suffer even more in the long run.
"If we don’t prevent people from getting sick, either by leaving them in shelters where the virus can spread quickly, or having them out on the streets, that’s going to cost a lot more money than being preventive or proactive," added Haney to KTVU’s Jana Katsuyama.
Should you have the disposable income to do so, consider donating to either the Providence Foundation of San Francisco or Give2SF fund, which provides “shelter, food and other assistance to individuals, families, small businesses, and nonprofits in San Francisco.”