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SF homeless shelter closure threatens to displace families

Sunbear Jackson participates in a march with the Coalition on Homelessness march outside of San Francisco City Hall on Oct. 11, 2022. | Juliana Yamada for The Standard | Source: | Juliana Yamada for The Standard

The city is brushing up against a deadline to save one of its homeless shelters, with the building’s property owner requesting that all tenants move out by January.

The Oasis Family Shelter, a low-barrier emergency family shelter that provides dozens of beds in San Francisco, is scheduled to close on Dec. 15. The Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing said that the city is considering buying the shelter, but that it needs six months to determine whether the building is in good condition.  

The city is preparing to move all of the families living at the site into permanent supportive housing if it can’t reach an agreement to extend the shelter, according to the homelessness services department. 

“There is always a wait list for Oasis rooms and families are turned away daily,” said Dominika Seidman, a pregnancy doctor at UCSF who focuses on homelessness, in a press release. “The closure of the Oasis will undoubtedly result in more pregnant people and families being unsheltered and on the street in San Francisco.” 

The department began funding the Progress Foundation to operate shelter services at the Oasis property in March 2020, having made an agreement with the building’s owner. The owner is planning to sell the site, but hasn’t yet given the city an asking price. 

The Oasis Family Shelter is the only low-barrier emergency shelter specifically serving families in the city. Its potential closure comes amid a broader shelter shortage, with 1,946 shelter beds for the city’s estimated 7,754 homeless people, according to the most recent count

A city dashboard shows that the shelter system is 14 guests over capacity at the time of publication.  

Legislation authored by Supervisor Rafael Mandelman requires the homelessness services department to come up with a plan to provide sufficient shelter to the city’s unhoused population by the end of the year. The department is expected to release the plan in the coming weeks. 

Some advocates for the unhoused have argued that shifting allocations toward new shelter units would detract from funding set aside to create permanent housing for currently homeless residents. 

The city is also facing a lawsuit for allegedly displacing people who live on the streets without providing them with shelter beds.  

The lawsuit, brought by the Coalition on Homelessness, seeks to end the practice of encampment sweeps and demands that the city increase its affordable housing stock.  

Meanwhile, residents at the Oasis shelter remain uncertain about their future. 

“This shelter is one of many first steps toward our liberation from a life destined for many unhoused people,” said Oasis shelter resident Yaasmeen Williams in a press release. “Without this shelter, we’d have nowhere to go.”