In the six "Safe Sleeping Villages" set up by the city of San Francisco during the pandemic, the cost of maintaining a single tent-camping spot is $5,000 per month, or $61,000 per year — more than it would cost to put each of these people in a market-rate apartment.
The insane costs of running these sleeping "villages," which only have space for a total of 262 tents spread across the six sites, makes one immediately think of the criticisms that are leveled against the Homeless Industrial Complex, as conservative commentators are eager to call it. The revelation of the pricetag for the tent program — $16.1 million for the year — came at a budget committee meeting on Wednesday, as the Chronicle reports, via Abigail Stewart-Kahn, the interim director of the Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing.
Apparently, supervisors have been operating under the assumption that this program, like the hotel program for the homeless, would get covered by FEMA reimbursement. It turns out, it will not, though Stewart-Kahn said it does qualify as a group shelter.
The tent program, which has attracted its share of critics since the start of the pandemic, was a quick and dirty response to the need to shutter indoor shelters across the city to prevent COVID outbreaks. But the numbers behind are bound to spark further debate about how the city addresses homelessness, and how inefficient programs like this one are with money.
The cost boils down to $190 per tent per night, which includes 24-hour security, bathrooms, maintenance, and three meals per day. This is cheaper than the per-day cost for the hotel program, but the hotel program is getting 100% federal reimbursement. (Thanks, Biden.)
Also, the Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing has committed to rehousing everyone as the come out of the hotel rooms — an enormous task, given that there are upwards of 2,000 people currently in the program.
Meanwhile, the tent program is giving temporary shelter to 314 people in 247 tents.
"I understand the motivation to create sleeping space during this COVID-19 crisis,” says Supervisor Ahsha Safaí, speaking to the Chronicle. "But we really need to dive deep to see if this a sustainable model... without any federal reimbursement."
Clearly it's not a sustainable model, even if $16.1 million is a drop in the bucket of the city's current $300 million (and rising) budget for homeless services.
Seriously, though, if a tent is costing more than an apartment would, how is this even still happening?
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