Homeless shelter system: recovery and expansion

San Francisco will expand shelters and Safe Sleep sites for people experiencing homelessness after COVID-19.

Before the pandemic, the City already supported many homeless shelters. During the pandemic, these sites could not safely shelter as many people as they did originally. In fact, COVID reduced the system’s capacity by about 70%.

The City implemented life-saving and effective changes to keep guests safe during the pandemic. These changes: 

The COVID-19 Alternative Shelter Program is being closed safely and slowly. Mayor London N. Breed proposed the Homelessness Recovery Plan to continue reducing homelessness in the city.

This page discusses how the Plan proposes to:

  • Open the congregate shelter system to 2,100 beds
  • Keep new trailer and Safe Sleep sites open

The congregate shelter system during the pandemic

The City's shelter system helps people experiencing homelessness by providing a temporary place to stay indoors and access resources. Shelters are temporary; housing is permanent. 

The City operates many shelters for adults, youth, and families. Some have private rooms, but most are congregate. Congregate sites have shared living spaces. 

The City was able to keep some existing congregate shelters  open. To do so, they had to meet COVID-19 safety standards: 

  • Maintain social distancing, including bed spaces 
  • Meet new cleaning protocols 
  • Conduct health screenings for guests 

To meet the social distance standard, fewer spaces were available. The City had to stop taking new guests and move some guests to other shelters. The shelter could also not take in new guests if there was a testing event or suspicion of a positive COVID-19 case. 

To shelter as many guests as possible, the City also opened new emergency sites. These are called Shelter-in-Place and Isolation & Quarantine Sites. Visit the Alternative Shelter Program page here to learn more.

The future of the congregate shelter system

The City is committed to providing temporary shelter to those in need.  

The Department of Public Health will determine when it is safe to re-open shelters at higher capacity. 

The City wants to do more than re-open the shelter system as it was before. The Mayor's Homelessness Recovery Plan also proposes to: 

  • Re-open shelter system to 2,100 beds
  • Continue the new trailer and Safe Sleep programs

Learn more about all of the goals of the Homeless Recovery Plan.

Track progress towards meeting the congregate shelter goals

These goals are proposed as a part of Mayor London N. Breed's Homeless Recovery and Housing Expansion Plan. Learn more about the Plan and goals A through D here.

Goal E: Reach 2,100 beds in the congregate shelter system by June 2022

This goal aims to re-open many beds that were closed during the pandemic. It also proposes to add new beds that were not available before the pandemic.

The Plan proposed adding new beds by opening two new Navigation Center programs: 

  • Bayview SAFE Navigation Center 
  • Lower Polk Transitional-Aged Youth (TAY) Navigation Center 

The City opened them in 2021. These two had added a total of 159 beds by February 2021. When it is safe to do so, they will open a total of 278 beds.

The Plan proposes 2,100 total beds by July 2022. It also proposed to open 1,000 of all those beds by July 2021. The City had opened 932 by July 2021.

This dashboard shows the number of active adult and youth congregate shelter beds in the congregate shelter system.

Goal F: Keep trailer sites and Safe Sleep program open after the pandemic 

The City received 120 trailers to use as emergency shelter for COVID-vulnerable unsheltered people. The City will continue to manage these trailers after the pandemic. 

The City will also continue to maintain some Safe Sleep sites that opened during the pandemic. More information on Safe Sleep is at the bottom of the page. 

This dashboard below shows the capacity of the trailer program and the Safe Sleep sites. 

Current shelter guest data

The dashboard below shows the current total of guests in the shelter system. It also shows the “occupancy” and “capacity” of the system.

  • The capacity of the system is the total of all congregate shelter beds plus all building units
  • The occupancy in the system is the total of all occupied beds and units

Read the data notes for more information. 

Data notes and sources

Congregate shelters include a common space with multiple beds. 
Non-congregate shelters include private units that may have multiple beds. Trailers are examples of non-congregate shelters. 
Non-congregate shelters can house multiple individuals in a single unit. So, the total guests is not the same as the total occupancy. 
COVID Capacity = all congregate beds + all non-congregate units 
COVID Capacity is all possible beds in congregate shelters, plus all possible units in trailers. It is the total number of beds or units that could shelter at least one person.  

Occupancy = occupied congregate beds + occupied non-congregate units 
Occupancy is the total number of occupied congregate beds, plus the total number of non-congregate units occupied with at least one individual. A unit with more than one individual is counted only once.  

Occupancy Rate = Occupancy ÷ COVID Capacity 
Occupancy Rate is Occupancy divided by COVID Capacity. Occupancy Rate reports how many of the possible beds or units available are occupied. 

Safe Sleep program

Even after expanding the shelter system, sometimes there are not enough resources available and some individuals are not ready to move inside.  No matter what, the City wants all residents of San Francisco to have access to: 

  • Safe and clean spaces to sleep 
  • Access to services 
  • Access to sanitation 

The Safe Sleep program is one new strategy to achieve this goal. People can sleep in tents at a safe distance from each other and off public sidewalks. This is a low-barrier program that: 

  • Implements COVID safety standards 
  • Offers 24/7 access (a guest can come and go any time of day) 
  • Connects clients to resources to exit homelessness 
  • Connects clients to services  

The City and its community partners manage Safe Sleep Villages. Safe Sleep Villages provide guests with access to: 

  • Food and water 
  • Medical care  
  • Behavioral health and harm reduction services 
  • Hygiene services, including toilets, showers and garbage 

There is 24/7 security and staffing at each site that ensure a safe environment. 

See the dashboard below for the number of Safe Sleep programs and guests.  

Some tent spaces allow for couples. So, there might be more individuals than tent spaces.