Advocates Demand that Mayor Breed Follow the Law, Move Unhoused People into Hotels and Allow COVID-19 Tests for Shelter Residents

The City’s Inaction is Now Unlawful Under Unanimously-Passed Ordinance, Public Health Law

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San Francisco, CA—Today, attorneys for the Coalition on Homelessness demanded that Mayor Breed stop shirking her mandatory health duties, and allow COVID-19 testing of all shelter residents, as well as follow the recent City ordinance requiring that hotel rooms be made available for all unhoused people during the shelter-in-place ordinance.

New San Francisco law requires the City to provide 7000 rooms for unhoused people by April 26. The deadline for procuring the rooms has past, and Mayor Breed has repeatedly made public statements indicating that her administration does not intend to lease the total number of hotel rooms the Ordinance requires, nor widen the criteria for those who qualify. As of May 4, the City had leased only 1,632 rooms for unhoused individuals, and only 1,045 of those rooms were occupied. There are still almost 1,000 people in congregate shelters and over 5,000 people in encampments in San Francisco.

Even after 105 people at the City’s largest shelter tested positive, the City has refused to provide COVID tests to all other people in shelters, despite the offer by a private company to provide free tests specifically for that purpose.

“Public health experts agree: the congregation of people in cramped spaces threatens the health of the entire community,” said Jennifer Friedenbach, Executive Director of the Coalition on Homelessness. “The Mayor is not just refusing to follow the law; she is putting thousands of people at risk.”

“People of color are far more likely to experience homelessness than their white counterparts,” said Abre’ Conner, staff attorney at the ACLU Foundation of Northern California. “Mayor Breed’s refusal to make currently vacant hotel rooms available to unhoused people will have a disparate effect on communities of color— who we know are already suffering disproportionately severe impacts from COVID-19.”

“The Mayor’s intentional inaction opens the City up to legal action,” said Elisa Della-Piana, Legal Director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area. “The City cannot pass laws and then violate them–putting our communities at great health risk—without consequences.”

Coalition on Homelessness is represented by attorneys from the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area, the Public Interest Law Project, the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Northern California and the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty.

Read the full demand letter to Mayor Breed here.

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