Shelter Access Press Release
For Immediate Release
February 23, 2022
Wesley Saver, Senior Policy Manager, GLIDE, (847) 682-8639
Carlos Wadkins, Human Rights Organizer, Coalition on Homelessness, (530) 218-2104
Letter Sent to Mayor Urging Self-Referral Access to Homeless Shelters
SAN FRANCISCO — Yesterday, a letter signed by 46 community-based organizations asking for the reinstatement of the self-referrals to the shelter system was sent to Mayor London Breed and other city leaders.
Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the 311 shelter reservation system that allowed anyone to call and place themselves on the shelter waitlist has been offline. As a result, most shelter referrals have been centralized through the city’s outreach teams. Single adults who are seeking shelter can call the Homeless Outreach Team’s (HOT) public line but, according to the Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing’s website, “[d]uring this public health emergency, we will not be answering this phone line live.” “Please note that shelter space is limited,” the website reads, “While we might not be able to immediately place you in a shelter, we look forward to meeting you and connecting you to available resources.”
The letter, signed by a broad range of groups such as GLIDE, the Tenderloin Community Benefit District, the Coalition on Homelessness, and San Francisco’s Local Homeless Coordinating Board, states, “Currently, thousands of individuals living outdoors and in the streets of San Francisco have no self-directed pathway into the shelter system, and must rely on a centrally-controlled system that is inaccessible to those who desperately need them.”
As a solution, the authors of the letter are recommending the City “reinstate a policy of self-referral for people experiencing homelessness as soon as possible,” in order to provide “an accessible path into shelter for all who wish to pursue it.” According to the letter, the current system fails to do this, and instead “serves the policies of removing the visibility of homelessness and ‘fiscal prudence’.”
According to Kelley Cutler, longtime advocate and sitting member of the Local Homeless Coordinating Board, “Things have been really tough during COVID. Folks used to be able to get on the waitlist or walk up to shelters for a bed, but now the main way to get shelter is if they happen to be at an HSOC operation.” “People all over the city are wanting services,” Cutler said, “They just need an actual way to access them. They’re not service resistant, the system is resistant to them.”
Recently, the opening of the city’s Tenderloin Linkage Center has provided Tenderloin residents a way to directly access services they need; however, this center only serves the Tenderloin, leaving unhoused San Franciscans in the rest of the city without this direct access. The Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing, tasked with managing the city’s shelter system, has thus far resisted calls to reinstate self-referral to shelter city wide.