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Transitional Housing Pop-Up Opens in SoMa

Written by Sarah WrightVideo by Mike KubaPublished Mar. 08, 2022 • 7:21pm

A safe sleeping site for people experiencing homelessness has gotten an upgrade in the form of “tiny cabins.”

The 70 prefabricated one-room structures now sitting at 33 Gough are set to house residents looking to get out of homelessness immediately while they wait for more permanent housing.

A Tuesday’s ribbon-cutting ceremony, DignityMoves founder Elizabeth Funk said she started the nonprofit that is building the “tiny cabins” to find an interim solution to the homelessness crisis San Francisco and the Bay Area is facing, and to give people a lock on the door and a roof over their head as they wait months or even years for permanent housing assignments.

33 Gough by the numbers:

  • The site will eventually house 70 units.
  • Each unit is 64 square feet. 
  • 12 residents have already moved in. 
  • The buildings have an estimated useful life of 20 years.
  • With amenities, each site costs an estimated $30,000.

DignityMoves will also provide improved communal spaces such as bathroom and shower facilities, cafeterias, a computer lab, a clinic and other offices and community spaces. Daily meals will be available to the residents and Urban Alchemy, a nonprofit that patrols across the city, is set to be onsite giving out meals and managing the site. 

The Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing has been deeply involved in setting up and funding the site, and Mayor London Breed was at the ribbon cutting on Tuesday to celebrate its opening. The city is currently leasing the two vacant parking lots at 33 Gough through the next year for its safe sleeping site, which formerly housed 44 tents. Funk said she hopes the city will extend its contract for the Gough site, but the units are built so they can be moved to a new location when needed.

“The idea is for these to hopscotch around opportunistically as there's land available,” Funk said. 

This is the first of two sites currently in progress for the nonprofit—the other hosts 33 rooms in downtown Santa Barbara. Funk said she is in talks with 10 other cities interested in building the tiny cabins. The group is also working on a 60-room project in Rohnert Park, where it will offer more permanent housing on city-owned land. 

The funding for the program’s $1.7 million budget came mostly from Tipping Point Community, a Bay Area nonprofit that contributed the initial $1 million. Dignity Health also contributed around $400,000, Funk said. The ongoing site costs will all be paid by the city’s Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing. 

According to DignityMoves Executive Director Sharon Lai, there’s no time limit that residents can stay in the transitional housing, but a typical stay length is around 120 days. In addition to the amenities onsite, residents will be able to be connected to health care, job placement services and permanent housing.

“I'm excited about what this will mean for people's lives, but I'm also hopeful that we as a city can do a better job at getting more housing built in the first place and getting more people into housing in the first place,” Breed said on Tuesday. 

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