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San Francisco Delays Plans To Close Hotels For Homeless Residents

San Francisco officials are delaying plans to close some of the hotels in the city that have been set up for homeless people who are elderly or medically vulnerable and need a place to safely shelter during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The news, announced quietly over the weekend via tweet, comes as coronavirus infection rates in the city surge and temperatures outside drop.

City officials had planned to close seven hotels by Dec. 21, where about 500 homeless people are currently living. But those facilities will now stay open for at least another 30 days.

Nicholas Garrett welcomed the news. Garrett, 41, says he has a heart condition and has been staying at one of the hotels since early summer. “Thirty days could make a world of difference for a lot of people here,” he said.

The city delayed the closures after receiving $10 million in new funding from the state to help it transition more people into permanent housing.

Abigail Stewart-Kahn, the interim director of the city’s Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing, wrote a letter to her department last week informing them of the change in plans. “These additional funds have provided us a small but much needed window of time to gather input from service providers and guests and to integrate early learnings into the SIP [Shelter-in-Place] Rehousing Plan and pipeline,” she wrote.

Stewart-Kahn recently told KQED the city is committed to making sure that the homeless residents staying in these hotels will not have to return to the streets or into emergency shelters.

San Francisco has a total of 29 shelter-in-place hotels open for vulnerable homeless residents, with over 2,300 people are currently living in them.

Meanwhile, a group of San Francisco supervisors introduced legislation to the board on Tuesday that would prohibit the city from moving anyone who is homeless out of SIP hotels unless they are placed in more stable housing, or if the Federal Emergency Management Agency cuts off funding for the program.

FEMA currently pays for 75% of the cost of running the hotels as part of the federal emergency response to the pandemic. City officials have said that uncertainty over continued agency funding is one of the reasons they had planned to close down the hotels in December.

The legislation was referred to the board’s Committee on Budget and Finance, where it is scheduled for a hearing next Wednesday.

— Erin Baldassari (@e_baldi) and Erika Kelly (@erikakelly100)

Copyright 2020 KQED