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Saturday, June 22, 2024

City of San Francisco pays up to $61K for each homeless shelter

Pamela Cruz. Peninsula 360 Press [P360P].

In the wake of the rising number of homeless in San Francisco, officials have raised concerns as shelters have had to reduce the number of people they help due to COVID-19, and the cost of housing homeless people in tents has reached more than $16 million.

San Francisco is paying $16.1 million to house homeless people in 262 tents in vacant lots around the city, where they also receive services and food.

When you do the math, it's clear that the cost of supporting each of those tents on the land is more than $61,000 per tent per year.

That's more than twice the cost of an average one-bedroom apartment in San Francisco, so why waste money, especially when the city is projected to have a budget deficit of more than $650 million over the next two years.

The six tent sites, called "safe sleeping villages," are monitored 24 hours a day, with food distribution, clean water, garbage collection and access to toilets.

It should be noted that the tent program is not eligible for federal reimbursement, and the $16.1 million allocated for the program in the current budget is a fraction of the more than $300 million spent annually on homeless services.

While the program is expensive - the average nightly cost per tent is $190 - it is $82 less than what the city pays to house the needy in its homeless hotel program.

However, the hotel program, which offers four walls, a bed and a private bathroom, costing about $21 million a month, is reimbursable by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

During last Wednesday's budget committee hearing, the department's acting director of homelessness, Abigail Stewart-Kahn, pointed out that tent sites are not eligible for federal reimbursement because they are considered a group shelter.

He added that the city struggled to create other options for the homeless, as indoor shelters were closing early in the pandemic, and officials did not have time to conduct a more thorough contract bidding process, which may have reduced operating costs.

In that regard, Stewart-Kahn said the department is "conducting an analysis" on the tent program and figuring out how it can move forward with the program.

The city, which originally thought the program would be reimbursed by FEMA, has paid for it through a combination of state grant money, the city's general fund and money from a 2018 business tax; so stated the department Wednesday.

Residents near the designated tent areas have expressed anger and raised complaints about pests and drug use in the spaces.

The executive director of the city's Coalition for the Homeless, Jennifer Friedenbach, said San Francisco made the right decision at the beginning of the pandemic to create the program, but she said the program should be expanded at the current rate. Instead, she called for investing that money in more stable options, such as housing subsidies.

It is necessary to understand that indoor shelters can cost millions of dollars to build and operate, while affordable housing can cost at least $700,000 per unit. Both proposals could take years to build.

Peninsula 360 Press
Peninsula 360 Presshttps://peninsula360press.com
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