After FEMA's announcement that approved shelter-in-place (SIP) hotels would be entirely reimbursed with federal funds, five SF supervisors have now introduced legislation to expand the City's SIP hotel program and house 500 more homeless San Franciscans.

This past December, it was announced that qualifying SIP hotel programs that grew out of the pandemic to house vulnerable populations would be retroactively reimbursed via federal funds — effectively ending the contention around fiscally supporting these programs with city reserves. (San Francisco’s hotel program, per SF Public Press, once cost the City about $18M a month, but with the introduction of new federal funding, that number is expected to drop to just $3M in total for this fiscal year.)

Currently, the SF SIP hotel program includes some 1,850 hotel rooms for people experiencing homelessness during the pandemic; this comprises of homeless families, unhoused single youth and adults, and others deemed to be high-risk — including those with pre-existing health conditions or the elderly above 65 years old.

In an effort to continue offering temporary shelter for these affected cohorts, five members of the SF Board of Supervisors — supervisors Matt Haney, Dean Preston, Shamann Walton, Hillary Ronen, and Myrna Melgar — are calling to no only keep the current roster of SIP "Alternative Housing Units," which numbers 2,592 units of active "SIP Hotel/Trailer Units," but to continue backfilling 100% of the units that have since been vacated by clients exiting the program.

"With FEMA’s announcement that they will fully fund the shelter in place hotels, we have an unprecedented opportunity to protect hundreds more vulnerable homeless neighbors from COVID and help people on a path out of homelessness permanently," says District 6 Supervisor Matt Haney, who also chairs the City's Budget and Finance Committee, in a news release. "It would be irresponsible and dangerous to continue business as usual, with the federal government affirming how critical our Shelter In Place program is, and with thousands still stranded on our city’s sidewalks, alleys, and doorsteps."

The introduced legislation aims to quickly fill at least 100 hotel rooms that still sit empty, all while making at least 200 more rooms available by introducing new hotel partners into the program. Over the 60 days that the emergency ordinance will be “active,” the goal is to see a large increase in SIP hotel capacity that can accommodate over 500 homeless individuals.

“Everyone should have a safe place to shelter in place, period,” adds District 5 Supervisor Dean Preston — the City official who, himself, personally helped fund SF's first SIP hotel back in April. “Every day that an unhoused person stays in a hotel is a day they can catch their breath enough to troubleshoot their circumstances, apply for services and housing, reconnect with family, and figure out next steps. Housing people has no downside.”

As of publication, 1,929 people are occupying SIP Alternative Housing Units; the City's SIP hotel program has collectively served 9,564 individuals, to date.

Related: SF Supe Wants to Turn Vacant Building at Center of Scandal Into Homeless Shelter; Newsom Leases Two Oakland Hotels for Shelters

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Image: May 10, 2020 Homeless tents line Main Street in San Francisco's financial district during shelter in place order. Tents are surrounded by modern skyscrapers in an affluent area of the city. (Photo: Getty Images/DianeBentleyRaymond)