This is an open letter to Mayor London Breed, signed by 50 local organizations, urging a plan for SIP hotel residents that does not mean a return to the streets.
February 10, 2021
Honorable London Breed
Mayor of San Francisco
1 Dr. Carlton Goodlett Place, room 200
San Francisco, CA 94102
Dear Mayor Breed,
We are a group of service providers, people with lived experience with homelessness and community stakeholders who came together after the plan to close the SIP hotels was announced in October. We were concerned that this announcement was made before there was an adequate housing plan to ensure those in SIP hotels did not return to the streets, and that residents of the hotels were not properly informed about their fates, knowing only that the hotels would close. Over 100 organizations wrote to you with our concerns in a sign on letter at the time, but did not receive a response. Our goal was then and continues to be that before the city closes down SIP hotels, a realistic, well-resourced and compassionate plan is created that:
- Collaborates with service providers and residents.
- Plans for re-assignment of workers.
- Involves input of the residents.
- Is COVID safe, including testing of residents and staff before moving
- Ensures that residents are housed and their needs met with true long term stability.
- Continue to track and publicly report housing and placement outcomes for all SIP Hotel residents.
- Is data informed with strong community oversight.
- Equitably meets the needs of unhoused people outside of hotels, including underserved neighborhoods and families.
- Ensure Shelter Grievance Due Process is back in place.
Since we have formed, we worked on legislation to meet many of our goals, the city has gone back to the drawing board and created a much more realistic plan, and the closures were delayed.
However, we are concerned with recent communication from both the Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing, and yourself regarding the SIP hotel closure, which seemed to deviate from agreements we believed were reached.
The city has the Responsibility to Care for All Unhoused People
We were concerned that these communications seemed to abdicate responsibility for unhoused people outside the SIP hotels. A recent DHSH member stated that “Due to the temporary need to prioritize people exiting SIP Hotels for housing placement, people experiencing homelessness in San Francisco who are Housing Referral Status and who are living in settings outside of the SIP Hotels will experience delays in referral to Supportive Housing and Rapid Rehousing”. Central to our work on this issue, has been the idea of ensuring equity for those outside of SIP hotels. There are several hundred people who are document ready and waiting for housing outside of the SIP hotels, and several hundred more who are at the top of the Coordinated Entry list considered “housing referral status”. We supported the Prop C Our City Our Home Oversight committee recommendations to fund subsidies for non SIP residents of the Bayview, prioritizing African Americans, and subsidies for homeless families outside of SIP hotels. This was done to ensure some equity out on the streets. The statement that there will be “acute delays…for San Francisco Housing Referral Status adults without children who did not serve in the US Military” who currently live on the streets indicates that you will not be rapidly implementing these initiatives, which is greatly concerning and also disturbing.
Vulnerable People Should Get Housing
In addition, the communication from HSH contradicts previous agreements that those with medical vulnerabilities, and those over the age of 60 who are not “housing referral” status will still be offered housing out of the SIP hotels. We would appreciate clarification on this critical point.
Permanent Solutions is What We Have Been Pushing For
In the communications, there was an indication that the SIP hotel effort has led to a shift in resources going to temporary solutions, instead of permanent solutions. We just wanted to clarify that we are committed to permanent solutions, and that is what we have been fighting for since we came together. We also want to note that the San Francisco portion of the costs are a cost effective investment and have proven cheaper then some of the other temporary housing efforts the city has engaged in, such as Safe Sleeping Villages and Navigation Centers, especially now that there will be 100% FEMA reimbursement.
In sum, Mayor Breed, we were delighted when you committed back in spring of 2020 to house 7,000 unhoused people in hotel rooms, and we were also gratified that you committed to housing each and every one of the 2,500 people housing in hotels declaring no one would be sent back to the streets. Many of us were a part of this historic moment and realize what a monumental effort it was. The SIP hotels have proven to be a wonderful opportunity to do housing navigation work as folks are stabilized and easy to find. We agree with your commitment to house everyone in the SIP hotels, and have been working hard to make sure this commitment is realized.
The main reason cited for closing the hotels was uncertainty that FEMA would continue, and now that FEMA funding is guaranteed throughout the duration of the pandemic at 100% reimbursement rate, this great news allows the city to move forward in a much more careful way to ensure all hotel residents land on their feet — in housing and stabilized. However, the rehousing of SIP hotel residents has been moving exceptionally slowly, and vacancies have risen to 9%, after a year of already unacceptable vacancy rates and excruciatingly slow referrals. We recommend two actions steps:
- House those who are document ready outside of SIP hotels, such as those in Safe Sleeping Villages or on the streets, simultaneously with SIP hotel residents
- Utilize the windfall of FEMA reimbursements to do acquisitions such as purchasing additional hotels that would help to permanently address the homelessness crisis.
Thank you for your consideration and your compassion. Working together we can solve homelessness. We really can do it.
3rd St. Youth Center & Clinic
Alliance for Social and Economic Justice
San Francisco Living Wage Coalition
Bethany United Methodist Church
Community Housing Partnership
Compass Family Services
Delivering Innovation in Supportive Housing
Downtown Streets Team
End Hep C SF
Episcopal Community Services (ECS)
The Episcopal Church of St. John the Evangelist
Faith in Action — Bay Area
Five Keys Schools and Programs
First Mennonite Church of San Francisco
Homeless Prenatal Program
La Casa de Las Madres
Larkin Street Youth Services
Lawyer’s Committee for Civil Rights of the SF Bay Area
The LGBT Center
Mary Elizabeth Inn
Mission Neighborhood Resource Center/Mission Neighborhood Health Center
San Francisco Living Wage Coalition
St. Ignatius Parish
Senior and Disability Action
SF Aids Foundation
SF Coalition on Homelessness
SF Hepatitis C Task Force
Simply the Basics
St. James Episcopal Church
St. John’s Presbyterian Church SF
St. Mary and St. Martha Lutheran Church
St. Vincent De Paul
Older Women’s League (OWL)
Or Shalom Jewish Community
The Kitchen SF
The Women’s Building
Western Regional Advocacy Project (WRAP)
YWAM San Francisco