San Francisco is paying a hefty price tag of $16.1 million to shelter homeless people in tents placed throughout the city called 'Safe Sleeping Villages.'
The city of San Francisco will use the $16.1 million of taxpayers funds to shelter homeless people in 262 tents placed in empty lots around the city, providing them with food and services, The San Francisco Chronicle reported.
This price tag comes to a total of more than $61,000 per tent per year.
It was reported in May that San Francisco had also been providing free alcohol, methadone and medical cannabis to homeless people quarantining in hotels during the coronavirus pandemic. Many now believe that the recently passed COVID Relief Bill will use taxpayer money to bail out the city which had a projected $650 million budget deficit over the next two years and allow San Fancisco to continue providing the controversial extras in a non sustainable model.
The 'Safe Sleeping Villages,' which was created in an attempt to get homeless people off the streets at the start of the coronavirus pandemic, consists of six tent sites which gives homeless people access to bathrooms, three meals and around-the-clock security.
The annual cost of one tent exceeds San Francisco’s average rent price for a one-bedroom apartment by two and a half times, according to the Chronicle.
Abigail Stewart-Kahn, the interim director of the homeless department, said at a budget committee hearing Wednesday that the "tent sites are not eligible for federal reimbursement because they are considered a group shelter," unlike the city’s hotel program which provides four walls, a bed and a bathroom. The hotel program costs the city $21 million a month but the Federal Emergency Management Agency reimburses most of the costs.
According to Stewart-Khan, 'Safe Sleeping Villages' were created as other options for the homeless as indoor shelters closed due to the pandemic.
The Homelessness Departmen'ts proposal frustrated supervisors Ahsha Safaí and Shamann Walton, who wanted more funding for an RV Navigation Center, and doesn’t think the program will be sustainable citing the outrageous price tag. "I understand the motivation to create (safe) sleeping space during this COVID-19 crisis," Safaí told the SF Chronicle. "But we really need to dive deep to see if this a sustainable model ... without any federal reimbursement."
City leaders support the idea of sleeping villages for the homeless but many city leaders are frustrated with the high-price tag, encouraging other leaders to find a more feasible alternative.
Rafael Mandelman, who proposed legislation last fall to get the city to create more shelter options, says there needs to be other legislation challenging the safe sleeping villages. "We have to find a way to have exits from the streets. But we need them to be more cost-effective than the safe sleeping program that the city has been running," said Mandelman to SF Chronicle.
According to the current budget, the $16.1 million is just a fraction of $300 million spent on San Francisco homelessness crisis per year. Many people are sleeping on the streets every night, despite the millions of dollars the city spent with taxpayers funds on the tent program, said the San Francisco Chronicle.