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San Francisco supervisor wants to shelter some homeless people out of town

Supervisor Connie Chan during the Board of Supervisors meeting within the Board of Supervisors Chambers at City Hall in San Francisco, Calif. on Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2023. | Michaela Vatcheva for The Standard

Supervisor Connie Chan wants to address homelessness in San Francisco by sending some people living on the city’s streets to shelter, housing and health-care facilities in other counties.

The proposal, which is included as part of Chan’s “Equitable Recovery Plan,” aims to address the city’s inability to meet local demand for shelter and housing by sharing social services with other Bay Area counties. The proposal comes as the city grapples with deteriorating street conditions and a $728 million budget deficit over the next two years. 

Chan told The Standard that she hopes a regional approach would allow some people to receive housing and other services faster and cheaper than they would in San Francisco. The option to accept services in another county would be made by the individual, she said.  

“If they say they want to wait to [receive housing] in San Francisco, of course, we’re going to do whatever we can to help them,” Chan said. “But it’s not compassion for them to be left out on the streets.”  

Although the number of homeless people on any given night in San Francisco dropped by 3% last year, more than 20,000 people will experience homelessness in San Francisco over the course of a year, according to the most recent estimate. 

And meanwhile, some Bay Area cities have seen upward of 20% more people sleeping on their streets in a single night. 

San Francisco’s shortage of temporary shelter and housing has become especially apparent as a deluge of bad weather and a federal ruling that banned encampment clearings has intensified the need for sufficient resources. 

A recent report found that San Francisco would need to spend $1.4 billion on permanent housing and shelter units, beyond those already planned, to solve homelessness locally.

Advocates have contended that unhoused people cannot easily obtain shelter of their own accord since the city’s homelessness department closed its shelter waitlist during Covid. And city officials have acknowledged that the shelter bed inventory is limited, while a dashboard that tracks shelter availability often says that the system is over capacity. 

A representative from the Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing said that it hasn’t heard from Chan about this proposal, but that the city already partners regularly with nearby counties. 

Chan said that she plans to discuss the proposal with the responsible agencies during the city’s budget negotiations.  

“If we can’t provide [a home] for people in the immediate term, then I think that the city should work with partners to find whatever that is available to them right now,” Chan said. “The longer the person is on the street, the worse their condition becomes.” 

David Sjostedt can be reached at

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