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Coronavirus Update: SF Mayor Says Hotel Rooms Needed For Patient Surge, Not For Immediate Homeless Relief

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) -- San Francisco Mayor London Breed Friday responded to demands from some of the city's supervisors that the city immediately move homeless people in shelters to the thousands of available hotel rooms in the city during the coronavirus pandemic.

The demands from city supervisors followed word on Thursday that a homeless person at the Division Circle navigation center on South Van Ness Avenue had tested positive for COVID-19. Since he had mild symptoms, he was not hospitalized.

Instead, the city moved him to a hotel room along with anyone who was near the man at the homeless shelter, as well as anyone 60 or older or who had an underlying health condition.

Breed said Friday that calls to move all people at the shelter to hotel rooms immediately and begin moving other homeless people into available rooms does not take into account the larger goal of keeping most available rooms for the coronavirus patient surge.

Breed also said the situation is also more complicated for those who suffer from mental illness and addiction, as it takes more health care workers and even security guards to keep people with positive cases from escaping.

ALSO READ: Coronavirus Update: California Launches 'Project Roomkey' Initiative To Place Homeless In Hotel Rooms

"We are working together to make sure that we have a system to address what we know, sadly, will be a situation where possibly all of our beds could be occupied, which could be very challenging to serve those people who are in need of a bed. This is where our hotels will be very instrumental," said Breed. "Because if someone does not need to be in a hospital bed and they are homeless, the opportunity to provide them with a bed in a hotel is so critical to their recovery and limiting their ability to spread it to other people, and it's important to making that bed available to someone who is really in need."


"We know that there are a lot of frustration and emotion attached to what we know is a real homeless problem in our city," she continued. "We are not going to be able to solve our homeless problem in San Francisco with this crisis. We cannot deviate from what information we have and what systems we are putting in place in order to address this challenge and really, truly flatten the curve. This is our ultimate goal."

The mayor was speaking at the very same moment as the governor was discussing the state's Project Roomkey, an initiative which would be placing many homeless in hotels. Breed said she is prioritizing hotels rooms for homeless who test positive, and those considered vulnerable, including those over 60 years old, those who have underlying conditions and those who are not yet in the city's shelter system.

On Friday, advocates for the homeless advocates protested the mayor's move from their cars by Moscone Center. They want most of the city's sheltered and unsheltered homeless moved into city hotels now.

"We have over 2,000 hotel rooms that are sitting empty today under contract that we are paying for. We do not want the city to hold them empty," said Jennifer Friedenbach with the SF Homeless Coalition. "It is absolutely inevitable that we're going to have outbreaks in all the shelters. It's impossible not to; you can't have that many people living together. Let's do this faster so that we can get people in hotel rooms and save lives."

Earlier this week, the Board of Supervisors unanimously passed a resolution demanding that Mayor Breed and city departments urgently procure private rooms to house all shelter clients, especially seniors and those with underlying health conditions into private rooms immediately, before they become infected.

The resolution also called for moving high-risk unsheltered individuals who are sleeping on the street or in encampments into private rooms, before they become infected.

The supervisors said they would introduce an emergency ordinance requiring at least 1,000 rooms be used for unhoused people in shelters and mandate that the city lease an estimated 14,000 hotel rooms by the time the coronavirus is expected to reach peak infection on April 28.

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