Giving Compass' Take:

• Various cities are struggling to address how the coronavirus will spread throughout homeless shelters unless creative housing alternatives are put in place to reduce overcrowding. 

• How can donors support homeless shelters with resources that can help them manage social distancing? What other supports do cities need to take care of their homeless populations effectively? 

• Read more on what it will take to protect homeless individuals from COVID-19. 

So far, more than 750 people experiencing homelessness in San Francisco have been transferred into private hotel rooms in an effort to slow the spread of disease. That’s a small fraction of the homeless population in the city, which is estimated at around 9,000. Homelessness activists, health advocates, and city supervisors have been calling on the city to dramatically reduce density in crowded homeless shelters, navigation centers, and SROs by tapping San Francisco’s 30,000-plus empty hotel rooms as isolation housing since the city’s shelter-in-place was ordered on March 17. But what was first pitched as a preventive measure became more urgent on April 10, when more than 70 residents and staff in MSC South tested positive for the disease. By Tuesday, the number had climbed to over 100.

“It’s impossible for people to isolate when they’re living in a large group sharing a bathroom and sharing eating spaces with large groups of people,” says Jenny Friedenbach, the director of the Coalition on Homelessness, a San Francisco advocacy group. She’s calling for the city to dedicate 9,000 hotel rooms for the city’s entire homeless population, and expand testing to everyone in the shelters and the streets. “The have-nots are basically put into large congregate settings and locked down there until they’re able to pull out the dead bodies.”

She shared a fear echoed in cities nationwide, and around the world: If the populations crowding homeless shelters aren’t quickly and substantially thinned, there will be more coronavirus outbreaks, and more fatalities.

California has been a leader in the effort to tap unused hotel and motel space to ease crowding in shelters. On April 4, Governor Gavin Newsom announced an initiative dubbed Project Roomkey, a first-of-its-kind effort to relocate shelter residents to the more than 6,000 rooms under state possession.

Read the full article about homeless shelters by Kriston Capps at CityLab.