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Thousands from San Francisco’s growing homeless population will reportedly be housed in several of the city’s empty hotels to help slow the spread of the coronavirus, a concern that became more pressing as a local shelter reported the first homeless COVID-19 case Thursday.
The program represents one of the city’s most significant efforts in years to reduce the homeless population. The city has seen a 30 percent increase since 2015, Reuters reported.
City officials have secured 4,500 rooms within several city hotels that signed up for the program after its recent announcement, which will house those living on the streets and in single-room occupancy buildings that share kitchens and bathrooms.
California is under a statewide “safer-at-home” order, but the nearly 10,000 who sleep on the city’s streets every night are often clustered in encampments and unable to socially distance.
“People are supposed to stay in, but I don’t see how that’s possible when there’s a lot of us around,” Jackie Cismowski, who has experienced homelessness periodically since 2012, told Reuters while walking through the city’s Tenderloin district.
City officials have not specified which hotels signed up for the program, citing healthy privacy laws and to avoid stigmatization, Reuters reported.
Some hotels have raised concerns about the program, including who would pay for potential property damage and whether California laws would give those staying in the rooms tenancy after 30 days.
Anand Singh, president of United Here Local 2, told Reuters the city will be training hotel workers on how to avoid spreading the virus between rooms when cleaning.
“You could end up in a situation where these crucial facilities … that are intended to stop the spread of COVID-19 could instead lead to outbreak clusters,” Singh said.
Some local lawmakers want the number of rooms increased to 14,000 so all the city’s homeless and some from SRO buildings can be housed, Reuters reported.