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Shelter In Place Hotels: Let’s Use ‘em til the Money Runs Dry

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Via – Carlos Wadkins of Coalition on Homelessness

The Stop the SIP Hotel Shutdown, a group of community organizations and activists who came together in November 2020 when the city was prematurely planning on shutting down all SIP hotels in San Francisco, is renewing its call for SIP hotels to stay open for sheltering unhoused people and calling for open access to the rooms for eligible individuals.

Activists dropped banners in San Francisco City Hall calling on the city to keep Shelter-in-Place hotels open and allow unhoused people to move in off of the streets. Tuesday Dec 14th, SF City Hall.

Hotelling, a program that has been fully reimbursed by FEMA, was just recently extended by the Biden administration through April of 2022. The program was instituted to allow social distancing and sheltering in place of unhoused people. Moving adults out of our shelter system and off of the streets into individual hotel rooms during the pandemic saved lives. A study of the SF SIP hotel program showed that emergency department visits dropped more than half on average, resulting in decreased substance abuse and advanced health equity goals.

The city of San Francisco oversaw the opening of 25 SIP Hotels with 2,228 rooms at its peak and has already closed 8 hotels since vaccines became available, including one for families and one for youth. The City announced planned closures of 2 more hotels in December just as news of a new Covid variant of concern has emerged. The new COVID variant Omicron has hit Canada among other countries and travel restrictions have been put in place. “I think it is clear from what’s happening in South Africa that this Omicron variant does spread rapidly,” Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health said, noting that Covid-19 cases are relatively low in South Africa.

“What we don’t know is whether this Omicron variant will outcompete Delta in a country like ours, or whether Delta, because it’s been so successful, will basically just push it aside. That’s another unknown.” According to CNN, “while scientists say there is reason to be concerned over Omicron, they stress there is still a lot we don’t know — including whether the variant is indeed more contagious, whether it causes more severe disease or what its effects on vaccine efficacy may be”. This new variant is yet another reason to fully utilize the shelter in place hotels for unhoused individuals.

People experiencing homelessness, especially those selected for admission to SIP hotels are at increased risk for severe COVID-19 and death even if vaccinated because they are older and have high rates of chronic disease. Throughout the pandemic, individuals experiencing homelessness who were living in congregate shelters faced high risk for COVID-19 infection and mortality. One analysis by the Coalition for the Homeless in New York City found that through February 2021 the mortality rate for New Yorkers living in congregate shelter was 49 percent higher than the mortality rate for the general New York population. This increase was largely attributed to the spread of COVID-19 in shelters, settings where congregate living made social distancing impossible.

The SIP hotels can provide private room shelters and allow people relief from the cold weather, while keeping people safe in private rooms. In order to improve distancing there are fewer shelter beds. Traditionally the city opens up winter shelter beds, and this year only 40 “beds” were added to the system. These are beds that are closed during the day, providing mats on the floor in a congregate setting. They fill quickly once word gets out. Folks who have been out on the streets, have been stuck there since the beginning of the pandemic. New referrals into SIP hotels closed in March. Self referral to other shelters that existed prior to the pandemic has been halted, and instead individuals must be referred by a limited number of often inaccessible government entities. This has led to shelter vacancies while those seeking shelter at community based organizations are turned away due to lack of placement authority and the closure of the self referral process. Housing placements are mostly restricted to current SIP hotel residents.

We proposed the city of San Francisco take the following steps:

✔ Reopen the two hotels slated for closure as SIP Winter Shelters through April, extending existing staffing and operations to be reimbursed by FEMA. The city is doing this, but we want to make sure the shelters are run by organizations with a strong track record and roots in impoverished communities.

2. Ensure new shelter beds are broadly accessible through self and provider referral on a first come first serve basis. This will ensure high utilization. So far, the city is still relying on inadequate and failed access procedures.

3. Use the savings from the unanticipated federal reimbursements to acquire new hotels to transform into studio apartments.

Show Your Support – 1,2,3
Show your support for keeping the SIP hotels open and full by following these three easy steps!

Print out our poster and display it in your window.

  • Send a tweet in support of the Keep SIPs Open demands.

 

Sample Posts

 

  • Funding from the Federal government for the SIP hotel program was recently extended to April 2022. @LondonBreed use the savings to acquire more hotels and turn them over to unhoused people for permanent housing!  #KeepSIPsOpen

 

  • SIP hotels allow people experiencing homelessness to shelter in place safely, which is impossible in a congregate shelter. @LondonBreed unhoused people can’t access the the new non-congregate shelters if you don’t reinstate self referral to shelter #KeepSIPsOpen

 

  • New referrals to SIP hotels closed in March – since then people on the street have had almost no options for respite. @LondonBreed why not #KeepSIPsOpen and allow people use empty SIP hotel rooms?

Instagram Image


Send an email to Mayor Breed, telling her that you support the Keep SIPs Open demands.

To: MayorLondonBreed@sfgov.org
Subject Line: Use the Money and Keep SIPs Open

Dear Mayor London Breed,

The city has already closed eight Shelter-in-Place hotels, including the only hotels for youth and families. There have not been new referrals into the SIP hotels since March 2021. These policies do not reflect the reality that we are still in an ongoing pandemic, with new variants of COVID-19 spreading through our communities.

With Federal funds for hotelling extended through April 2022, there are concrete steps that can be taken to help people off of the streets and save lives. As one of your constituents, I am emailing you today to ask that you:

1. We are thrilled you are opening non-congregate winter shelters as we have been pushing for. Please make sure the shelters are run by organizations with a strong track record and roots in impoverished communities.

2. Ensure new shelter beds are broadly accessible through self and provider referral on a first come first serve basis. This will ensure high utilization. So far, the city is still relying on inadequate and failed access procedures.

3. Use the savings from the unanticipated federal reimbursements to acquire new hotels to transform into studio apartments.

Best,
[Your Name]

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1 Comment

  1. Gloria Huerta
    December 16, 2021 at 6:20 pm — Reply

    We need to incarcerate all landlords and seize their property. Landlords prey on people of color, the 2SLGBTQQIA community, Indigenous People, and the unhoused and undocumented communities. Anyone, in fact, who owns any property is part of the racist capitalist system and there is no justice until each one of these people are permanently incarcerated and have their property seized. I encourage all San Franciscxns to write their supervisor and jail all landlords and property owners NOW

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