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California

2,500 ‘pop-up’ shelters, 3,500 hotel rooms to be used to isolate homeless people, others in San Francisco

Powell Street in San Francisco is nearly empty on Tuesday.
Powell Street in San Francisco is nearly empty on Tuesday.
(Justin Sullivan / Getty Images)

San Francisco is adding 2,500 new shelter spaces for homeless people and identifying at least 3,500 hotel rooms to house people who need to be isolated as the city battles the coronavirus spread.

Many of the hotel rooms will go to those who live in single-occupancy hotels with shared bathrooms and kitchens, said Trent Rhorer, executive director of San Francisco’s Human Services Agency. The rooms are for people who test positive for the virus but don’t need a hospital and don’t have a place to self-isolate.

The city will open the 2,500 “pop up” shelters to ensure social distancing and isolate homeless individuals who have tested positive but do not require hospitalization.

Rhorer said the city was in the process of securing food and staffing for those in isolation.

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In addition to the 3,500 hotel rooms for isolation, the city will lease rooms for first responders.

“We don’t want healthcare workers on the front line to go home and potentially infect others,” he said.

In 2019, 8,011 homeless individuals were counted in San Francisco’s point-in-time street and shelter count. This was an increase of more than 14% over the 2017 count.

According to state models, as many as 60,000 homeless people could become infected with the coronavirus, and 20% could require hospitalization.

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That would mean California would need 12,000 hospital beds just for those living on the streets — a formidable task for a state already struggling to find extra capacity to manage the pandemic before hospitals become overwhelmed by too many patients.

“That creates a deep point of anxiety for the existing population, but moreover for our healthcare delivery system,” Gov. Gavin Newsom said Wednesday evening.


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