San Francisco has begun to offer homeless people with shelters using hotels under a new shelter-in-place hotel program, but the majority of them have declined to move.

City officials opened shelter-in-place hotels amid the pandemic to support vulnerable homeless residents. The program provides private rooms with bathrooms and gives individuals three meals a day.

Homelessness in San Francisco

While the previous offers were temporary, a new, permanent supportive housing option is available in a newly renovated hotel. It provides communal bathrooms and charges a flat 30% of a resident’s income as payment for rent.

However, despite the appealing offers, 70% of shelter-in-place hotel residents refused to accept to move to the 232-unit Granada Hotel. The establishment was purchased for $45 million last year.

“We have experienced a decline rate of people living in shelter-in-place hotels at a rate never experienced before in San Francisco when offered permanent supportive housing. This is understandable fundamentally,” said the Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing Interim Director Abigail Steward-Kahn.

“We’ve never had shelter in many ways that’s nicer. We respect people’s right to decline their housing placements,” Stewart-Kahn said, noting they would discuss better options to offer homeless people.

The situation is another problem for San Francisco, which has committed to not forcing out anyone who moved into a shelter-in-place hotel before November 15, 2020, and is part of a rehousing program. City officials are desperately trying to find permanent places for homeless residents before federal reimbursements run out by October.

On Tuesday, the Board of Supervisors passed an emergency ordinance ordering 560 more homeless residents to enter shelter-in-place hotels over the next two months. It also extends the current federally reimbursed program.

The Coalition on Homelessness’s Keegan Medrano said the city is shifting the blame on residents who refused to accept the permanent housing options. He said the program did not have the best track record among the homeless community.

“We’re in a tough position where we want people to get into permanent supportive housing, but frankly, a lot of it is unacceptable and not in good condition. Many don’t have Wi-Fi, they don’t have good air filtration systems. They’re hot, they’re small, they’re congregate,” Medrano said.

However, Medrano hoped that homeless residents understand the Granada Hotel was newly refurbished and provides a different accommodation compared to other housing units. He also said officials should prioritize locations with private bathrooms when purchasing hotels.

A board ordinance is expected to be extended on Tuesday, which provides permanent housing for hotel residents. City officials are continuously working on their goal of supporting homeless people, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

There are hundreds of units available across multiple hotels, and the Granada Hotel has only filled half of its available rooms. While many homeless residents could reject the offers, city officials could give them to other eligible individuals. There are more than 600 residents with sufficient documentation ready to move in, supervisors and advocates said.