SF plans to add 1,100 homeless shelter beds during El Niño storms

San Francisco is prepared to add 1,100 temporary shelter beds to provide to those living on the streets during the El Niño storms expected in January and February, Mayor Ed Lee announced Wednesday.

“We’ve been expecting some big storms to come our way,” Lee said. “If we are lucky we will be overprepared.”

The mayor said “we will definitely be taking care of as many people who are on our streets as possible.”

In addition to the existing 1,525 emergency shelter beds, The City will be able to, within hours of an approaching storm, create additional beds for estimated thousands living on the street.

Trent Rhorer, director of the Human Services Agency, “We are stepping up for El Niño.”

The additional capacity will come by adding mats to existing shelters, drop-in spaces or cafeterias. There is also space in three Recreation and Park Department recreation centers, nonprofit facilities like St. Anthony’s and other locations like YMCA gymnasiums in both the southeast neighborhoods and the Western Addition.

“The shelters will operate on a 24/7 basis but only for the duration of the storm,” Rhorer said. The Salvation Army and Meals on Wheels will assist in the effort.

The beds will be mats on the floor. Indoor tents would be erected in buildings with leaky roofs or lack of heat.

Rhorer said based on what happened in 1997-98, about 1,000 beds will meet the need. He said there are about 3,500 people who live on the streets. Some, he said, will refuse to shelter and others will find temporary accommodations.

The mayor also called on residents to report any clogged catch basins to help combat flooding. The City offers free sandbags through Department of Public Works.

Anne Kronenberg, director of Department of Emergency Management, said, “Our city is prepared.” She noted that in 1998 in January and February, what’s considered the worst El Niño year, there were 46 days of rain.

The mayor referred residents to the emergency response website www.sf72.org to stay informed.

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