Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Hundreds More Homeless Could Get Housing Under Emergency Policy

Featured in San Francisco Public Press:

More than 600 people living on San Francisco’s streets could soon get placed in permanent supportive housing.

The Board of Supervisors on Tuesday approved an emergency ordinance that lifts restrictions on who can access this type of shelter, which includes services like mental health and substance use treatment and employment assistance. Open units in the city’s permanent supportive housing stock were reserved by the Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing for residents of the city’s shelter-in-place hotels, where homeless people who are at severe risk of COVID-19 have been sheltering since last March. People living outdoors who qualified for housing were unable to access it.

Housing providers for months have called for changes to the city’s limited housing access rules. The practice of forcing people living on the streets to wait in line behind those in shelter-in-place hotels “is the definition of inequitable,” said Sara Shortt, director of public policy at the Community Housing Partnership, a large permanent supportive housing provider. “I am grateful to hear that fairness in access to housing for the homeless will be restored.”

In addition to addressing equity concerns, the ordinance may also prompt some shrinkage in the number of vacancies in the city’s permanent supportive housing stock. The city set a goal of not having more than 3% of its units vacant, but in February, that number reached 9.9%. In all, 766 units, or 1 in 10, sat empty, a 58% increase from September.

Abigail Stewart Kahn, interim director of the Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing, said a contributing factor to the high vacancy rate is a reluctance from people living in shelter-in-place hotels to transition into units that they have to pay for, and that often don’t have the same amenities or privacy as a hotel.

However, demand for those units has not waned among people who live outdoors, she said: “People who are not in shelter-in-place hotels are more eager to take permanent supportive housing placements.”

The Board of Supervisors has repeatedly called on the mayor’s office and the Department of Homelessness to fill the hotels to capacity, even passing legislation to that effect, but their requests were ignored over concerns about cost. That changed in January, when the Federal Emergency Management Agency pledged to not only fully fund all hotel costs through September 2021, but also to refund cities for costs dating back to the beginning of the pandemic. Previously, FEMA only contributed 75% of the costs for the hotels.

The ordinance is in effect for the next 60 days, but Supervisor Matt Haney said he plans to draft a permanent piece of legislation in the next two months to address the shelter-in-place hotels and their pending closure once funding from FEMA ends in September.

 

People living on the streets of San Francisco, like the residents of these tents, will have a higher likelihood of accessing housing due to a new ordinance.

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

70 Hotels Could House the Homeless - District Supervisors Need Pressure

Please contact your district supervisor to put the pressure on. This great article is featured in the San Francisco Public Press:

More than 70 hotel owners have indicated they are willing to sell their properties to San Francisco, and now is the perfect time to buy some of them, homelessness activists said Wednesday.

News broke this month that San Francisco would receive a full reimbursement for its shelter-in-place hotels from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, dating back to January 2020. Previously, FEMA funded 75% of the costs. The city has requested $84.4 million in reimbursements from FEMA for 2020, the controller’s office said in an email.

Applying FEMA reimbursements toward hotel purchases offers a relatively quick and simple way to expand San Francisco’s stock of permanent supportive housing, advocates say.

“We want to take advantage of this remarkable and rare opportunity,” Sara Shortt, director of public policy and community outreach at the Community Housing Partnership, which has 17 permanent supportive housing facilities in San Francisco, said at a press event. “This chance is not likely to come again.”  

Last year, the city put out a call for hotel owners to respond if they might be amenable to selling their properties. The move came after Gov. Gavin Newsom allocated $750 million to Project Homekey, which helps municipalities purchase hotels to convert into housing.

The city has not made public the list of 70 hotels, though there are several active listings online.

The Minna Hotel, on Minna and Sixth streets, was recently renovated. It has 72 rooms, and is listed for $13.5 million. A few blocks away, a modern 68-room hotel on Eddy Street is on the market for $23.8 million.

Last year the city used Project Homekey funds to purchase the Hotel Granada and the Diva Hotel, adding 362 new units to the city’s permanent supportive housing stock. Newsom recently announced that he would dedicate another $750 million to Project Homekey in 2021, and advocates are looking at other funding sources, too.

Advocates and providers have been applying pressure to the city to purchase more hotels for months. Last September, Randy Shaw, executive director of Tenderloin Housing Clinic, which operates many buildings containing permanent supportive housing, sent 10 hotel listings he’d found to the Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing.

“I’ve pleaded with the Department of Homelessness to secure the hotels while we have maximum bargaining leverage, to no avail,” he said, noting that pandemic-related drops in tourism have encouraged many owners to list their buildings.

But that was before the FEMA money was made available. An email from an unnamed spokesperson at the Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing said Wednesday that “purchasing and converting hotel rooms is one creative way” to get people off the streets but did not comment on whether it planned to use the FEMA reimbursements to do so.

Jennifer Friedenbach, executive director of the Coalition on Homelessness, expressed concern that the refund would not be earmarked for future projects around homelessness.

“We are deeply concerned that this money will simply be used to be sucked back into the city budget,” she said. “We feel very strongly that this is funding that is homeless dollars and was budgeted for unhoused people.”

The recently renovated Minna Hotel is one of several for sale in San Francisco, which has been notified by more than 70 hotels that they would be willing to sell it their properties.

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

SF To Shelter 500 More Homeless

Featured in SFist: 

After FEMA's announcement that approved shelter-in-place (SIP) hotels would be entirely reimbursed with federal funds, five SF supervisors have now introduced legislation to expand the City's SIP hotel program and house 500 more homeless San Franciscans.

This past December, it was announced that qualifying SIP hotel programs that grew out of the pandemic to house vulnerable populations would be retroactively reimbursed via federal funds — effectively ending the contention around fiscally supporting these programs with city reserves. (San Francisco’s hotel program, per SF Public Press, once cost the City about $18M a month, but with the introduction of new federal funding, that number is expected to drop to just $3M in total for this fiscal year.)

Currently, the SF's SIP hotel program includes some 1,850 hotel rooms for people experiencing homelessness during the pandemic; this comprises of homeless families, unhoused single youth and adults, and others deemed to be high-risk — including those with pre-existing health conditions or the elderly above 65 years old.

In an effort to continue offering temporary shelter for these affected cohorts, five members of the SF Board of Supervisors — supervisors Matt Haney, Dean Preston, Shamann Walton, Hillary Ronen, and Myrna Melgar — are calling to no only keep the current roster of SIP "Alternative Housing Units," which numbers 2,592 units of active "SIP Hotel/Trailer Units," but to continue backfilling 100% of the units that have since been vacated by clients exiting the program.

"With FEMA’s announcement that they will fully fund the shelter in place hotels, we have an unprecedented opportunity to protect hundreds more vulnerable homeless neighbors from COVID and help people on a path out of homelessness permanently," says District 6 Supervisor Matt Haney, who also chairs the City's Budget and Finance Committee, in a news release. "It would be irresponsible and dangerous to continue business as usual, with the federal government affirming how critical our Shelter In Place program is, and with thousands still stranded on our city’s sidewalks, alleys, and doorsteps."

The introduced legislation aims to quickly fill at least 100 hotel rooms that still sit empty, all while making at least 200 more rooms available by introducing new hotel partners into the program. Over the 60 days that the emergency ordinance will be “active,” the goal is to see a large increase in SIP hotel capacity that can accommodate over 500 homeless individuals.

“Everyone should have a safe place to shelter in place, period,” adds District 5 Supervisor Dean Preston - the City official who, himself, personally helped fund SF's first SIP hotel back in April. “Every day that an unhoused person stays in a hotel is a day they can catch their breath enough to troubleshoot their circumstances, apply for services and housing, reconnect with family, and figure out next steps. Housing people has no downside.”

As of publication, 1,929 people are occupying SIP Alternative Housing Units; the City's SIP hotel program has collectively served 9,564 individuals, to date.


 

 

 

 

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Hotels For Homeless: Extension or Cash Out?

Please read this article in the San Francisco Public Press:

The Federal Emergency Management Agency will retroactively reimburse states 100% of the cost for shelter-in-place hotels, dating back to January 2020, the White House announced Tuesday.

The announcement comes less than two weeks after the Biden administration pledged to fully fund hotels used to shelter homeless people over 65 or with compromised health going forward. Previously, municipalities were responsible for 25% of the costs.

The reimbursement for FEMA-eligible services — which range from personal protective equipment to the sheltering of at-risk populations — is expected to cost the federal government between $3 billion and $5 billion.

It is expected to help San Francisco whittle away at its huge budget deficit and save the state hundreds of millions of dollars, along with possibly assisting statewide efforts to build more permanent housing. The added funding could also help San Francisco move more people off the streets and into safer facilities for the time period it covers.

“Central to the Biden-Harris Administration’s COVID-19 National Strategy is ensuring states, Tribes, territories, and jurisdictions have the resources they need to defeat the virus,” the White House said in a statement.

Tuesday’s announcement included mixed messages about what programs were eligible for reimbursements, but FEMA released a statement Wednesday clarifying that shelters where residents aren’t forced to share living and sleeping space, such as shelter-in-place hotels, are part of the refund package.

San Francisco has opened 28 shelter-in-place hotels since March 2020, bringing indoors more than 2,300 homeless people who are over 65 or at high risk of morbidity due to pre-existing conditions. Although the Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing has not released a breakdown of its budget for the project, the city controller projected that the shelter-in-place hotels will cost a total of $179 million this fiscal year. The 75% of federal reimbursement funds, combined with money granted from the state, means that San Francisco would be responsible for about $3 million.

The department said it “welcomes the most recent FEMA funding news and looks forward to learning more details.” After the administration’s January announcement of 100% reimbursement going forward, the department said it began inviting more people into shelter-in-place hotels.

The funding will also save the state of California hundreds of millions of dollars it has used to subsidize the costs of non-congregate shelters.

“This is a win-win-win, for unhoused individuals, motel owners whose business was decimated by the pandemic, and communities across California,” California Controller Betty Yee said in an email Wednesday. “While full reimbursement for non-congregate housing is a positive step, there remains a critical need to build more permanent housing in California. Perhaps the additional revenue realized through the president’s action can be targeted at those efforts.”

The news of retroactive funding comes as San Francisco faces a major budget shortfall, with an expected $650 million deficit over the next two fiscal years.

In late 2020, the Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing began winding down the shelter-in-place-hotel project, citing cost as a major motivator. In the wake of news that the funding would be covered through September 2021, the department shifted gears, saying it would be amenable to opening new hotels if providers and hotel owners were willing to take them on. Since the funding expansion was announced, no information has been released about whether more hotels will be added to the program.

Image result for hotels for homeless in san francisco

 

 



Wednesday, February 3, 2021

San Francisco's Future Sleeping Cabins For Homeless

From the San Francisco Examiner:

A new proposal to erect temporary sleeping cabins for the homeless on a parking lot in the Tenderloin could serve as a model for sites throughout San Francisco.

The idea of providing tiny homes or sleeping cabins for the unhoused is not a new one, but San Francisco has so far resisted it. In response to the pandemic, however, The City has provided safe sleeping sites, sanctioned locations where people are allowed to camp in tents.

One of those safe sleeping sites was established in May 2020 at 180 Jones St. in the Tenderloin, a city-owned property that was previously used as a parking lot.

The nonprofit Downtown Streets Team began in November 2020 to provide services to the site weekdays from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Now they are collaborating with RescueSF and DignityMoves on a proposal to turn the site into a pilot for sleeping cabins for the homeless.

The site will eventually become a permanent supportive housing development by the Tenderloin Neighborhood Development Corporation, but construction isn’t slated to start until 2022.

“It would be an amazing time to pilot this in the meantime,” Romie Nottage, senior director of Downtown Streets Team for San Francisco, told the Local Homeless Coordinating Board Monday when unveiling the proposal to “gain support and feedback.”

“Current 180 Jones residents would be grandfathered into this pilot, allowing them to have the second part of their unhoused safe sleeping journey in a dignified, safe, warm place for them to get the services and support needed,” Nottage said.

The cabins, which would take one or two days to assemble, are small spaces with a bed, desk and chair, window, locking door, electricity and heat.

The proposal is for 22 cabins and two office cabins for onsite services as well as mobile facilities for bathrooms and showers. The site currently has portable toilets on the sidewalk.

Nottage said that the cost of the cabins would be privately funded, but did not disclose the amount. The San Francisco Examiner was unable to reach Nottage for comment before press time. It was not clear if they had yet submitted a formal proposal to The City for approval.

Mark Nagel, a Marina resident and co-founder of RescueSF, which he describes as a new citywide coalition of residents “advocating for compassion and effective solution to homelessness,” told the board that they hope to create “ a thoughtful pilot” that would collect important data that The City could use to decide whether to expand the effort throughout San Francisco.

“We believe that permanent housing is a solution for homelessness, but that waiting line for housing should not be on our streets,” Nagel said. “We think that’s unacceptable. So we are advocating to do a small pilot with these units that we think are a much better alternative to leaving people sleeping on the sidewalk there, on a parking lot.”

Nagel said that “it will take years to address the systemic causes of homelessness and the housing crisis, but we can stop street sleeping now and end it.”

This isn’t the first time a proposal like this was pushed for this site. The Examiner previously reported on efforts dating back to 2019 advanced by community advocate and former mayoral candidate Amy Farrah Weiss to create similar shelter for the homeless.

The City ultimately rejected her proposal and Mayor London Breed instead pitched opening The City’s first meth sobering center there, but those plans were scrapped due to the pandemic.

The pitch before the board Monday drew support from community advocates.

Brian Edwards, an organizer with the Coalition on Homelessness, said he hoped they succeeded with the pilot.

“It’s a shame that it took a global pandemic to get us to finally start experimenting with sanctioned encampments and tiny home villages in San Francisco,” Edwards said. “But I am glad it did.”

Donna Hilliard, executive director of Code Tenderloin, a job training nonprofit, said she has been working with those at the safe sleeping site and that “the biggest key to helping someone get back on their feet is giving them dignity. “

“Putting them into a place where they can actually sleep safely … is a way to set them up to succeed,” Hilliard said. “This model has been done in San Jose, in Oakland. Why are we not doing it here?”

Fernando Pujals, a spokesperson for the Tenderloin Community Benefit District, also backed the effort.

“We needed this like yesterday,” Pujals said. “We hope we can see this project come to fruition at 180 Jones, see it expand throughout the Tenderloin and other parts of San Francisco.”

 Page 6 of STE-Interim-Shelter-at-180-Jones

 

 

Tuesday, January 26, 2021

San Francisco to place all homeless in hotels for eight months

Featured in the San Francisco Public Press:

A move by President Joe Biden Thursday is being hailed by advocates as an opportunity for San Francisco to place all its homeless residents in hotels for the next eight months.

One day after Biden was inaugurated, his administration announced that the federal government will fully reimburse local governments for the cost of housing people who are homeless and vulnerable to COVID-19 in settings where they have space and separation from others, such as hotel rooms. The order extends until Sept. 30, 2021.

“It’s a game changer,” said Jennifer Friedenbach, executive director of the Coalition on Homelessness. “This is absolutely an unprecedented opportunity. There’s still today just as strong a reason that every San Franciscan has the opportunity to shelter in place as there was back in March.”

The Federal Emergency Management Agency, which reimburses local governments for emergency shelter programs for homeless people during the pandemic, has been covering 75% of the costs for San Francisco’s 28 shelter-in-place hotels, which house more than 2,000 people formerly living on the streets or in group shelters.

FEMA has limited this program to people who fit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidelines of being particularly vulnerable to the virus: those who are over 65 or who have certain medical conditions. Homeless activists note that this narrow definition of who’s eligible for help could be expanded.

“Next step: get FEMA HQ to implement broader definition for all regions,” said Diane Yentel, CEO of the National Low Income Housing Coalition, in a comment on Twitter. She said some regional FEMA offices have reimbursed localities for a broader group of homeless people than those who fit the CDC’s definition. The coalition is promoting a plan that would include $44 billion for the national Housing Trust Fund, with the money earmarked to help people sheltering in hotels transition to permanent supportive housing.

San Francisco has frequently cited budget constraints for its decision to wind down shelter-in-place hotels. In addition, the city does not have enough permanent housing for residents of shelter-in-place hotels once the program ends, said Abigail Stewart-Kahn, director of the Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing.

Shelter-in-place hotels were meant to be “a temporary, emergency response” Stewart-Kahn told the Budget and Finance Committee in December. She noted that an expansion of the program, which the Board of Supervisors unanimously approved last month, “effectively uses shelter-in-place hotels as temporary shelter at three times the cost.” Without designating housing or rehousing resources, the program would ultimately bring in thousands of people without “being able to offer them any type of permanent exit,” she added.

Asked what the city would do with the additional federal funding, the department said, “We are working with the City to determine what this means for our SIP Hotels and need to understand more before responding.”

Program costs

The hotel program costs San Francisco about $18 million a month, but with federal funds and subsidies from the state, the city is expected to pay just $3 million this fiscal year, according to City Controller Ben Rosenfield. The additional funding from the Biden Administration could lower the city’s cost substantially.

As the city has not yet released a breakdown of its shelter-in-place hotel budget, it’s unclear how far the money saved by the new federal funding would stretch to shelter homeless people who do not fit into FEMA’s definition of vulnerability. Regardless, advocates note that the city has more than 30,000 hotel rooms at its disposal, many of which sit empty due to COVID-19-related travel restrictions.

“The vacancies are there, the economic need is there,” said Chris Herring, a sociologist and doctoral candidate at the University of California, Berkeley, whose research focuses on homelessness. “Economically, it’s hard to argue against any of this.”

As for concerns about not having places to transition people to, Friedenbach said some relief from the streets is better than none.

“The Department of Homelessness’ argument as I hear it, is that it’s better to keep people on the streets to suffer through the pandemic, than it is to put them in housing, with the result of them looking bad if they don’t have housing at the end,” she said. “The city’s image problems are less important than people’s lives. I think if we have the opportunity to move into housing now, we should do that.”

More help soon?

In addition, Herring expects the city to get more assistance soon. The Biden Administration released a memo on Inauguration Day saying it plans to develop a plan to “solve homelessness” within Biden’s first 100 days in office.

“I don’t know why we think that we’ll be stuck in an even worse situation in September,” Herring said. “This literally came out on day two.”

Those plans are already taking shape. The Biden Administration is urging Congress to pass a relief bill that would provide $5 billion for local governments to buy hotels and motels to house homeless people, the Los Angeles Times reported Friday.

Gov. Gavin Newsom also just allocated an additional $750 million for Project Homekey, an acquisition program for shelter hotels. Last year, San Francisco used $29 million from Project Homekey to buy the Hotel Diva, which has 130 rooms for permanent supportive housing.

Supervisor Matt Haney tweeted Thursday night that in the wake of the federal funding expansion, he would introduce a law requiring the city to bring people into the hotels. “This absolutely is the moment to both protect people from COVID and make unprecedented massive strides towards ending street homelessness.”

The city has an opportunity to assess Haney’s emergency ordinance to expand the shelter-in-place hotels when it expires at the end of February. In the meantime, advocates are rolling up their sleeves for the fight.

“The immediate relief of hotels for so many has been well-documented so far,” Herring said. It’s immense. I’m hoping that the city will see this opportunity and take it.”

 

Real Help for the Homeless – JustGive

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

SF to Add Water Outlets in Neighborhoods With Large Homeless Populations

This is a very interesting article in the San Francisco Public Press. When we regularly volunteer, donors drop off shampoo, conditioner and soap for us to distribute to anyone we see living on the street. Obviously the ones living by Great Highway, right at the Pacific, have the easiest time in maintaining hygiene. They just cross the road, gallop down the beach and enjoy the largest bath in California. But for the ones that can't get access to water since gyms are closed (many pay membership just to use the showers), it's been a literally stinking mess for them. So please read this article and then delve into your suitcase, travel bags and closets to find any shampoo bottles or soaps you don't use. And then offer these to the homeless when you're out and about today. Here's the article to share:

San Francisco plans to expand access to drinking water for people living on the streets by adding permanent taps in three neighborhoods and leaving in place — for now — the temporary taps it installed after COVID-19 hit.

This month, the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission plans to begin installing the permanent taps in the Tenderloin, Mission and Bayview-Hunters Point. They are slated to be mounted near most of the 10 temporary water pipes with multiple spouts the commission put in place last year. The spigots were installed to address concerns from homeless residents and advocates about dwindling water access as restaurants and public spaces began shutting down.

For  many homeless residents, water access represents a hurdle between them and a job, a home — even survival. The demand for fresh water has been so great since March that several organizations began buying bottled water for distribution to homeless people at a cost of thousands of dollars.

“When we think about it as water being a human right, especially in a city as wealthy as San Francisco, there’s an expectation that that would be a service provided by the city,” said Calder Lorenz, a program manager at St. Anthony’s, a Tenderloin homeless services group.

An essential resource

Before he had heard of the coronavirus, 59-year-old Eric Coler would lug six gallon jugs a mile and a half from his tent on Willow Street past City Hall and the San Francisco Chronicle’s clock tower to Yerba Buena Gardens. The park there had the closest public fountains he knew of where he could fill his bottles in peace.

Coler avoided the library on his route because staff there discouraged him from filling his bottles, he said. Gas stations were a similar story.

“They’ll try to run you out, they don’t care,” Coler said of gas station employees.

Each trek took more than an hour, and he often made two a day. The return trips were always hardest. Coler described his bulging backpack loaded with heavy jugs “digging in my back.” He often returned to find his tent ransacked, its contents stolen. Even his water wasn’t safe.

“You have to watch out, people will take it from you,” he said.

By the time the pandemic hit San Francisco, Coler had moved his tent closer to the gardens. But he still got robbed while on water runs; people still stole his jugs when he wasn’t looking. Leaving his tent was never safe.

It wasn’t until the city placed him in one of its emergency hotel rooms in November that Coler could turn on his own tap.

“Access to water isn’t something that people think about,” said Sam Dennison, co-director of the Tenderloin homelessness services agency, Faithful Fools. “Everybody needs to drink something every day. How do you wash your hands? Wash your body? Keep your wounds clean?”

Water access has become critical during the pandemic, prompting some to take desperate measures. Three informal surveys of homeless Tenderloin residents conducted by Faithful Fools in September, October and November found that half of respondents drank non-potable water from broken faucets or the city’s emergency hygiene stations, Dennison said.

A quarter of respondents said they stole their water from corner stores, and another quarter said they relied on service providers for drinking water. This limited water access prevents people from staying clean, which can be dehumanizing, Dennison said.

“I used to wear the same clothes every day, back to back,” Coler said of his time on the streets. “I went three to four weeks at a time without washing my clothes.”

Lack of water access presents practical hurdles, too.

“It’s a hidden barrier to people recovering from homelessness,” Dennison said. “When we think about things like, ‘Why don’t people just go out and get jobs?’ — they’re seeking out basic resources, food, shelter. You can’t show up to a job interview or look for housing without having bathed first.”

The cost of water

At the urging of homeless activists and service providers, the city created several programs to address diminished water access. In March, the Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing — and later, the Department of Public Works — began rolling out dozens of handwashing stations and toilets in neighborhoods with large homeless populations.

When they are usable, the stations give homeless residents a more dignified place than the street to use the restroom and wash themselves, but the water in the stations is unsafe to drink. To meet the need for potable water, soup kitchens that had previously provided tap water to unhoused people in their dining halls began buying it in bottles to hand out on the streets.

“We were spending about $360 to $400 per day” on bottled water, said Lorenz of St. Anthony’s. From March to August, the nonprofit spent about $70,000 on bottled water for homeless residents. St. Anthony’s relies on donations and does not receive city funding, Lorenz said.

Glide, another Tenderloin homeless services group, has spent more than $48,000 on bottled water since March, said George Gundry, director of Glide’s meals program, which is partially funded by the city.

The nonprofit also receives occasional water donations — including several pallets of Aquaman star Jason Momoa’s signature canned water that the actor donated — which helps with costs, Gundry said.

While the cost of water alone is manageable, the bottles are just one of many added expenses Glide has taken on so it can serve food safely during the pandemic. “It certainly is putting a financial strain on Glide,” Gundry said.

Homeless outreach and advocacy groups in the Bayview and Haight-Ashbury said they, too, have had to buy water for their homeless neighbors.

“It’s almost to a point where I’m telling them they need to start buying their own,” said Gwendolyn Westbrook, the executive director of the United Council of Human Services. The Bayview homeless resource center spends $300-$400 each week on bottled water, money it could put to work elsewhere, Westbrook said.

“We would be spending that money on food,” she said, adding that she is worried her organization will not be able to meet people’s growing food needs.

After homeless services groups urged the city to help, the utilities commission rolled out the first pipes with multiple spouts in the Tenderloin last May, including one in front of St. Anthony’s and another near Glide. There are four spouts in the neighborhood. Two more were later placed in the Mission, and four are in the India Basin/Bayview/Hunters Point area.

The commission plans to finish the first seven permanent stations by the end of the month in the Tenderloin and Mission. Five more will be installed in the Bayview area in February. The stations are part of a 2010 Public Utilities Commission program that built 165 of the stations across the city, most of them in schools and parks.

The fountains at Yerba Buena Gardens, where Coler used to fill his water jugs, are part of the program. There is already one station in the Tenderloin, at Boeddeker Park. Coler avoided the park because he had conflicts with unhoused people who lived nearby, he said.

The commission plans to eventually remove the temporary spigots after the fountains are installed, commission spokesperson Will Reisman said.

“We’re not going to immediately take the manifolds down,” he said. “We’re going to evaluate the situation.”

Only three new, permanent fountains are slated to ultimately replace the four pipes with multiple spouts in the Tenderloin, where service providers say need is greatest, but the commission is “committed to working with community members on future locations,” Reisman said.

Thanks to the nearby spouts, St. Anthony’s stopped buying bottled water in August, Lorenz said, suggesting makeshift spouts have made a dent in the neighborhood’s needs. He is hopeful the permanent fountains will provide dignity to those who use them. But Lorenz is hesitant to call the program a success.

“While it’s a start, I just don’t see it as enough,” Lorenz said. “Right now, in the Mid-Market and Tenderloin area, the need is very large. It looks a lot like where we started.”

Enjoying unlimited water

When the city placed Coler in his hotel room in November, one of his first priorities was to take advantage of the bathroom. “I spent at least 45 minutes in the shower,” he said. “I wasn’t used to it.”

Coler still marvels at having water access. He can wash his face, use the toilet and do his laundry whenever he wants.

“You can put clean clothes on when you wake up,” he said. “Man, how sweet that is.”