Breed message to out-of-town homeless people during coronavirus: Stay away

San Francisco Chronicle, April 30, 2020

By Trisha Thadani


As San Francisco struggles to provide enough resources and services for its massive homeless population during the coronavirus pandemic, Mayor London Breed has a stern message for those coming from out of town: Please stay away. “People are showing up in San Francisco from other places and asking where their hotel room is,” Breed said at a Wednesday press conference. “That’s a real problem for me, because we already have a very challenging problem ... as it is.” Breed’s message comes as officials scramble to move thousands of homeless people into spaces that they can quarantine and safely distance from each other. People coming to San Francisco from other counties and states in search of services and shelter has been a longstanding challenge for the city. But during this pandemic, when resources are strained to the brink, officials said they must put their foot down. “I want to get the message out loud and clear,” Breed added. “If you are not in this system, and were not in this system as of the beginning of this pandemic, then we will not prioritize you over people who have been waiting.”


The city has leased more than 2,700 hotel rooms around the city for vulnerable homeless and front-line workers. Officials are also moving more than 100 trailers and RVs to a big, empty pier in the Bayview neighborhood, and exploring open land where people could pitch their tents at a safe distance from each other. Still, it’s not enough to meet the demand for the city’s 8,000-plus unhoused residents and the thousands of others who live in congregate settings. It’s nearly two months since the city has been ordered to shelter in place, and many of San Francisco’s neighborhoods — like the Tenderloin, Bayview, Mission and Castro — are still crowded with tents and groups of people with nowhere else to go. Abigail Stewart-Kahn, interim director of the homelessness department, said that people will only be prioritized for a room if they are already in the city’s system, and “have roots in San Francisco.” Those who have not been in the system, she said, will not be prioritized and will have to wait longer.


Other Bay Area counties, like Alameda County, have also moved some homeless population into hotels. “It’s not that we don’t want to help you,” Stewart-Kahn said. “It’s that it will take a tremendous amount of time. And we need you to return to your home communities and get the resources there.”

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