San Francisco’s COVID-19 Response
HSH and our City and non-profit partners are committed to providing care for people experiencing homelessness during this public health emergency.
HSH Response to COVID-19 Pandemic
In February 2020, Mayor Breed led the nation by issuing the first COVID-related emergency declarations. “Although there are still zero confirmed cases in San Francisco residents, the global picture is changing rapidly, and we need to step-up preparedness,” said Mayor Breed. “We see the virus spreading in new parts of the world every day, and we are taking the necessary steps to protect San Franciscans from harm.”
In March 2020, a shelter-in-place order was issued by the San Francisco Department of Public Health (SFDPH) due to the community spread of COVID-19. It required that residents remain in place, with the only exception being for essential needs. “We know these measures will significantly disrupt people’s day to day lives, but they are absolutely necessary,” said Mayor Breed. “This is going to be a defining moment for our City and we all have a responsibility to do our part to protect our neighbors and slow the spread of this virus by staying at home unless it is absolutely essential to go outside. I want to encourage everyone to remain calm and emphasize that all essential needs will continue to be met. San Francisco has overcome big challenges before and we will do it again, together.”
- Set up a resource distribution center for HSH providers and distributed appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) across the Homelessness Response System
- Deployed PIT Stops and handwashing stations to high-impacted areas across the city and in the largest congregate shelter to increase access to hygiene
In April 2020, the City activated its first Shelter-in-Place (SIP) hotel, providing a safe place for individuals who were most vulnerable to the negative impacts of the virus. Over the intervening months, the City expanded the temporary emergency SIP program to include 25 SIP hotel sites housing, at its peak, over 2,500 COVID-vulnerable individuals. Thanks to the hard work of City Departments and nonprofit partners, San Francisco opened and filled nearly 20% of all California SIP hotel rooms operated as part of the state’s Project Roomkey (SIP Hotel Program), despite San Francisco only having 5% of the state’s homeless population. This included transitioning over 500 COVID-vulnerable people experiencing homelessness in shelters and Navigation Centers to SIP hotels.
The City also opened four Isolation and Quarantine (I&Q) Hotels for people experiencing homelessness, or who live in settings where they cannot safely quarantine in their home, who are awaiting test results or are COVID positive and need to isolate. The City additionally provided hotel rooms for frontline essential workers in order to contain and prevent the spread of COVID-19. From March through early August, this program served 1,128 front-line workers at a dedicated hotel site. The Front Line Worker Housing program has now transitioned to an on-demand, flexible hotel accommodation model that can address the critical emergency needs of first responders and employees who test positive for COVID-19 or are suspected of having COVID-19 and are unable to safely self-isolate/quarantine due to their housing situation. For more information on the City’s COVID-19 Alternative Housing System: https://data.sfgov.org/stories/s/4nah-suat
Additionally, HSH and our non-profit partners:
- Launched and funded the MealsInPlaceSF program which delivered approximately 1,400 meals per day to people living in encampments in partnership with the Salvation Army
- Implemented homeless outreach focused on COVID-19 education, mask delivery, food/water delivery, hygiene and health care information
- With non-profit partners, launched Safe Sleep, a low-barrier and COVID-informed program, that helps slow the spread of COVID-19 by offering 24/7 access, connecting clients to resources and essential services to help them safely shelter in place, and providing a connection to the Homelessness Response System to work toward an exit to homelessness. Persons experiencing homelessness are referred to Safe Sleep through the Healthy Streets Operations Center (HSOC).
June 2020 manifested the social toll of sheltering in place, and the isolation of experiencing homelessness. HSH along with non-profit Partner Provider Miracle Messages launched Miracle Friends, with the goal of providing socially distant companionship and support for people in SIP and I/Q Hotels through trained and dedicated volunteers.
In July 2020, Mayor Breed announced the City’s Homelessness Recovery Plan to support investments in housing and shelter that will help the City create more resources for homeless residents as San Francisco endures and eventually emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic. The Homelessness Recovery Plan proposesthe largest expansion of PSH in San Francisco in 20 years.
As part of the Mayor’s Homelessness Recovery Plan, the Flexible Housing Subsidy Pool was announced in July 2020. As the City pivoted from COVID-19 response to recovery, a partnership with Tipping Point Community, Brilliant Corners and Dignity Health funded and operated a bold initiative to ensure that hundreds of unhoused residents exit homelessness through scattered-site Permanent Supportive Housing units offered through the Flexible Housing Subsidy Pool.
In September and October 2020, The City applied for, and was awarded a combined $78 million dollars from the State to purchase two hotel properties through Project Homekey. This funding allows the City to purchase the Granada Hotel and the Hotel Diva, adding approximately 362 units of Permanent Supportive Housing, part of Mayor Breed’s Homelessness Recovery Plan. “We know that housing is the solution to homelessness,” said Mayor Breed. “Throughout this public health crisis, we have provided emergency housing for thousands of unsheltered people but we have also developed a long-term Homelessness Recovery Plan to provide shelter and housing for thousands of people for years to come. Homekey funding will help our transition from response to recovery.”
In November 2020, San Francisco received approximately $10 million in additional State Project Roomkey funding that San Francisco utilized to support the continued operation of SIP Hotels for 30 days. This provided the opportunity for HSH to gather input from key stakeholders, including service providers and SIP hotel guests to inform the SIP Rehousing and Site Demobilization Proposal. A four-phased proposal, originally introduced in October, that connects SIP hotel guests to permanent housing interventions, upholding the City’s commitment to not exiting SIP hotel guests to the street.
Additionally, in November, the City had one active Safe Sleep Site and four Safe Sleep Villages providing over 200 COVID-19 compliant spaces for people experiencing homelessness.
December 2020– In response to legislation from the SF Board of Supervisors, HSH drafted and introduced the Rehousing and Site Demobilization Proposal. This proposed plan for rehousing individuals and families staying in the SIP Hotels uses a national best practice disaster rehousing model to move guests from temporary SIP hotel sites into a range of permanent housing interventions quickly. This model focuses rehousing efforts to act with urgency, connecting people in need immediately to housing resources, removing onerous documentation requirements and accessing needed public benefits and supports quickly. This ambitious proposal is aligned with HSH’s mission to make homelessness rare, brief and one-time. The SIP Hotel Rehousing Dashboard can be found here.
January 2021- The Mayor directed City departments to determine if there are additional hotels and service providers interested in working with HSH to open more SIP hotels, thanks to an expansion of FEMA funds by the Biden-Harris Administration. See the full update here.
Later in January 2021, HSH presented the Pandemic Prioritization Plan to stakeholders. A memo with further details can be found here. The presentation can be found here. The guest letter is here (with versions in Spanish, Chinese, and Tagalog)
February 2021 – Bayview SAFE Navigation Center, and the Lower Polk TAY Navigation Center opened and are now providing shelter at or near COVID-informed capacity. See the Mayors announcements here and here.
On March 17, 2021, the city and county of San Francisco commemorated the one-year anniversary of the county-wide stay-at-home order. San Francisco led the nation in issuing these orders which saved countless lives.
City services for people experiencing homelessness: https://sf.gov/information/covid-19-and-people-experiencing-homelessness
The COVID-19 data tracker (https://datasf.org/covid19) now includes the number of cases and deaths among San Franciscans experiencing homelessness.
For the latest news on COVID-19, visit sfdph.org
Sign up for the City’s alert service for official updates: text COVID19SF to 888-777
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, visit cdc.gov
For media inquires related to COVID-19, please contact DEMpress@sfgov.org