As a result of a mysterious phenomenon, the city of San Francisco is spending hundreds of millions of dollars to accommodate the homeless. But it also spends millions of dollars to move some of the same people out of the very housing they were placed in.
There is currently a moratorium on evictions in San Francisco. Yet the city of San Francisco (more specifically, the city’s Department of Homeless and Assisted Housing) evicts hundreds of people every year—ironically, evicts the very people they posted according to their programs, from the buildings we call single occupancy hotels (SROs). Supervisor Dean Preston and The Chronicle brought the issue to the attention in December, and it’s gaining momentum with the rest of the Supervisory Board.
The Chronicle notes in a new analysis of former homeless people being evicted again by the city that “the 75 single-occupancy hotels, or SROs used by San Francisco to house the homeless, account for about a quarter of all court-ordered evictions.” conducted by the Sheriff’s Department between 2019 and May 2022, although the buildings housed just over 1% of the city’s tenants.”
The San Francisco Board of Supervisors Committee on Land Management held hearings on Monday about the seemingly counterintuitive practice of placing people in assisted housing only to have them evicted shortly.
“It worries me that once someone’s housing is threatened … the city doesn’t have any real programs to keep people off the streets,” supervisor Dean Preston told the Chronicle after the hearing. “I mean, my office stepped in to just rent a hotel room for someone because there’s no city program, which makes absolutely no sense.”
In yet another, more frustrating paradox, Hron adds that “generally, people were evicted for the same reasons that qualified them for assisted housing in the first place: poverty, mental illness, injury, and the inability to take care of themselves.”
It makes little sense that people are being evicted for non-payment of rent (during the moratorium on eviction!), and the numbers show that half of the former homeless were evicted from SROs for non-payment of rent. But, admittedly, some of these evictions were related to cases that absolutely should be evicted.
On the one hand, the Chronicle reports that “a man was evicted after he shot his neighbor in the back through the adjacent wall.” On the other hand, “a tenant was kicked out for rent arrears of less than $1,000.”
This is obviously a difficult question; we’re talking about a population where mental illness and drug abuse are fairly common. But there is some nuance in this. Many defenders of the homeless pointed out at Monday’s hearing that these SROs are absolutely miserable, and non-payment of rent on such conditions is justified in many cases. Also, the rules at these SROs are often insanely strict, allowing maybe three visitors a month and no visitors after 10:00 pm. Some people are evicted for nothing, others for reasons for which, frankly, they should be in prison.
And so it’s a difficult continuum for passing laws. But in November, San Francisco voters approved an oversight committee for the Department of Homeless Affairs and Assisted Housing, and tonight the overseers are due to approve most of that oversight committee. (One candidate withdrew his candidacy). And it is expected that the oversight committee will help resolve complex issues such as this one.
Connected: A huge number of San Francisco’s ancillary housing units are in dilapidated, vermin-infested SROs, and that’s hardly better than being homeless. [SFist]
Image: Kevin Yu via Yelp