SF to Lose 100+ Shelter Beds on November 30th
The city of San Francisco is considering closing down “Site F,” which is home to 118 people experiencing homelessness living in trailers. The location near Pier 94 is just south of Islais Creek in India Basin.
The proposal is due to be discussed on Tuesday by the Commissioners of the Port of San Francisco. If approved, new intake will end on September 30 and people living in Site F will be required to leave by November 30, 2023.
UPDATE – 4/12/23 – Port of San Francisco commissioners heard a staff presentation Tuesday on the planned closure of a site that provides more than 100 shelter beds. The session was long on expressions of compassion for those experiencing homelessness but short on hard questions about whether the closure could be delayed.
The presentation advised the commissioners that at their April 25 meeting, they will be presented with a new agreement between the port and the city’s Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing (HSH) that will give the city 10 months to wind down operations and close the site.
Intake of new residents will end in early October and all residents will need to leave by the end of the year. The proposed agreement does not mention any extension.
The location – called “Site F” – was spun up in April of 2020, just after the coronavirus pandemic hit. The port agreed to accommodate the trailers – 94 provided by the state 29 leased by the city – while the health emergency lasted.
Emily Cohen, Deputy Director for Communications & Legislative Affairs for the city’s Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing (HSH), is hopeful that the proposal will be approved.
This comes as San Francisco faces a federal injunction that prevents the removal of tent encampments due to a shortage of shelter beds.
The closure of Site F is another blow to the efforts of the city to test potential alternatives to traditional shelter models. While Site F has not been without its share of problems, it has provided residents with personal space and autonomy that are missing in other models. However, the location of Site F is not suitable for permanent use, and it was only allowed as a result of the COVID-19 emergency.
Most of the people living at Site F are from Bayview. Gwendolyn Westbrook, the controversial CEO of United Council of Human Services, has been involved with Site F since its inception. (UCHS has a contract with the city to operate the site, although according to an April 7 port staff report, “During the winddown, HSH will be changing site operators so there will be no subcontractor role with United Council after June 30, 2023.”)
In an interview Wednesday with Bay City News, Westbrook expressed concern over what would happen to the people at Site F if it were to close.
Westbrook says that despite the city’s hopes, many Site F residents will be back on the streets if Site F closes. She says Bayview is their home and many would rather be on the streets in Bayview than in a city shelter or navigation center elsewhere.
“They don’t want to go to the navigation center,” she said. “Navigation center has been there before these [trailers] were here, but they were living on the street. They could have went to the navigation center there…. They’re not going to no nav center. They are not.”
Westbrook wishes that city would fight to keep assets like Site F that benefit the Bayview community she serves. She asks, “Why would you close shelter places?”
Cohen isn’t as concerned. She said that the department has heard similar concerns before the closing of shelter-in-place sites but, when closure was imminent, residents were often willing to accept housing. But she acknowledges that “people do have strong ties to their neighborhoods.”
The Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing hopes to find alternative accommodation for the residents of Site F.
The closure of Site F is causing concern for some, who worry that many Site F residents will be back on the streets if Site F closes. However, the department has heard similar concerns before, and residents have often been willing to accept housing when closure was imminent.
Although people do have strong ties to their neighborhoods, the department hopes to get a significant number of individuals into permanent housing and promises to work with the remainder to find shelter beds.
San Francisco is facing a shortage of shelter beds, with a federal judge enjoining the city from continuing to close tent encampments on city streets.
According to testimony in the federal case, the city is short 4,397 shelter beds. This has created a situation in which the handful of beds that free up on a given day are doled out bed-by-bed when city workers visit encampments. The closure of Site F, which has been in operation for three years, is another setback for the city’s efforts to address the issue of unsheltered homelessness.
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