San Francisco proposes expansion of permanent supportive housing

State grants allow for the purchase of two hotels to continue to find housing placements for people experiencing homelessness

Under+Biden%E2%80%99s+administration%2C+he+pledges+to+fully+reimburse+local+governments+for+their+housing+until+September+30%2C+2021.+Project+Homekey%2C+a+%24600+million+funded+program%2C+urges+local+governments+to+buy+hotels+and+convert+them+into+permanent+housing+for+the+homeless.+%28Amalia+Diaz+%2F+Golden+Gate+Xpress%29

Amalia Diaz

Under Biden’s administration, he pledges to fully reimburse local governments for their housing until September 30, 2021. Project Homekey, a $600 million funded program, urges local governments to buy hotels and convert them into permanent housing for the homeless. (Amalia Diaz / Golden Gate Xpress)

San Francisco is moving forward in the construction of permanent homeless housing.

The city purchased Hotel Diva using a $29.1 million share and awarded a $45 million grant for the Granada Hotel with the intent to transform these buildings into permanent supportive housing. These purchases are all a part of Mayor London Breed’s Homelessness Recovery Program that she announced back in July 2020, aiming to create up to 6,000 housing placements for people experiencing homelessness within the next two years.

The Homelessness Recovery Program proposes the largest one-time expansion of permanent shelter housing in San Francisco in 20 years.

Joe Molica, a representative for the Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing, said that the pandemic has helped uniquely push the progression for finding better solutions for solving the housing crisis. 

“The COVID-19 pandemic has created new pathways of funding, and new and creative opportunities to shelter our unsheltered neighbors,” Molica said. “The Safe Sleep Sites and Villages come to mind first and foremost. We were also able to purchase two hotels using the state’s Project Homekey funding, which will be converted to Permanent Supportive Housing.”

Safe Sleep Sites and Villages are city-designated zones where people can sleep in tents away from the sidewalks while remaining socially distanced from one another. San Francisco currently has six active sites that provide 24-hour access to garbage and hygiene services along with trauma-informed behavioral health services.

Near the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Gov. Gavin Newsom created the Project Roomkey program to help cities find housing for homeless people in hotel rooms – known as shelter-in-place hotels. But the cost to maintain this program was not cheap, costing San Francisco roughly $15 million a month. Under the Trump administration, the city was reimbursed for only 75% of its spending in this program.

The city of San Francisco bought Hotel Diva, as part of its Project Homekey, to house the homeless. About $29 million went towards converting the hotel to a permanent shelter in the Lower Nob Hill district on February 5, 2020. (Amalia Diaz / Golden Gate Xpress)

President Joe Biden’s administration has pledged to fully reimburse local governments for their housing programs until Sept. 30, 2021, allowing the city to continue backing the program without struggling for funds.

After the success of Project Roomkey, the state continued on with the program in its next progressive phase known as Project Homekey. Project Homekey is a $600 million program that urges local governments to buy hotels and establish permanent housing for people experiencing homelessness.

According to HSH Communications Lead Deborah Bouck, a goal of permanent supportive housing is to promote rehabilitation to help people remain off the streets. The Moving On Initiative is a program that aids people who are ready to move out of permanent supportive housing by helping them gain access to a federal housing voucher as well as finding a new home.

“It is always our goal to help people get back on their feet – that’s the crux of our mission which is to make homelessness rare, brief, and one-time,” Bouck said.

The homeless crisis is far from solved, but the number of people who have been housed has gone up. According to city data, there are around 2,220 people who have benefitted from the shelter-in-place program.

While the future expansion for permanent supportive housing in San Francisco sounds promising, Bianca Beverina, who works for Raphael House, a non-profit organization that provides support for low-income families experiencing homelessness, believes the city could do better with helping the homeless population in the present day.

Beverina hopes that the city will also focus on proper mental health programs along with finding permanent supportive housing for people in need.

“I can’t say I have seen change,” Beverina said. “There are more resources out there now because of the pandemic but it’s definitely not cleaning the streets of Sutter and Polk. This whole area has felt the same.”