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SF hopes to fill Pier 80 homeless shelter ahead of rainstorm

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The temporary homeless shelter at Pier 80, which previously housed Oracle Team USA during the America’s Cup in 2013, opened Feb. 5 and consists of 150 beds. (Nashelly Chavez/Special to S.F. Examiner)

City leaders are hoping a second precedent will be set this week in addition to the record-breaking warm weather: increased use of the Pier 80 winter shelter for homeless residents.

Save for a few days of rain at the beginning of this month, much of February has felt more like summer, thanks to high pressure and offshore winds that heated up temperatures along the coast, said Steve Anderson, a forecaster with the National Weather Service.

Come tonight, up to a half-inch of rain is expected to fall in San Francisco, which city officials hope will encourage homeless residents to seek accommodations at
Pier 80, a $1.5 million temporary shelter with 150 beds that opened Feb. 5 and has yet to reach capacity.

Following the recent warm weather, San Francisco saw a high of 77 degrees Monday, the warmest for that date since 1930, and was on track to break a record Tuesday as well.

But tonight’s expected rain has prompted a push by city officials to encourage homeless residents to utilize the Pier 80 shelter.

As of Tuesday, the shelter has seen only half-full capacity, but the anticipated rainstorm is the first following the shelter’s opening.

City officials hope the number of guests at the shelter will rise to the 150 there is space for. “With or without rain, we’re kind of doing this extra push because we have this expanded capacity,” said Sam Dodge, Mayor Ed Lee’s homeless czar.

Dodge explained that the shelter, which has showers, toilets and electricity, welcomes couples and pets, and guests may store their belongings on site, differing from other shelters that impose stricter rules. The idea is to make the shelter a welcoming, desirable spot for those who otherwise opt to sleep in a tent or on the streets, said Dodge.

“One of the most important things we can do as a city is recognize we need to experiment more with the services we provide to the homeless,” Dodge said.

“If this is something that really works well for a segment of the population, we need to figure out how to build on that success,” he added. “If it’s something that’s not working for a lot of people, we need to take that as input and figure out what the next thing we need to do is.”

Also at Pier 80, Glide Memorial Church provides three meals a day, the Society of St. Vincent de Paul donated a flat screen TV and Recreation and Park officials lent a few basketball hoops.

Meanwhile, weather officials said a warm burst in February is not unusual, though it’s still expected that The City will see above normal rainfall this year. Dodge said city officials are talking with the Port of San Francisco about extending the Pier 80 shelter beyond March 31, the date it’s currently set to close.