Supervisor proposes standards for shelters

In response to complaints about the conditions of San Francisco’s homeless shelters — from lack of toilet paper to verbal abuse — city officials are expected to adopt standards and approve funding to improve the quality of the temporary bed sites.

The City’s 19 homeless shelters are on the front lines of one of San Francisco’s most vexing problems, homelessness, and critics of the shelters’ conditions say the facilities should serve as sanctuaries.

Supervisor Tom Ammiano authored the legislation to establish standards for the shelters, which serve about 1,800 homeless people daily.

“I think we will definitely see a healthier, more positive environment for people who need to use the shelters. The basics need to be attended to,” Ammiano said.

Operated by city-funded contractors, the shelters would be required to have a sufficient supply of clean towels, soap, toilet paper and blankets as well as provide healthy meals. Staffers would also be required to undergo special training. Under the legislation, The City would be able to seek up to $1,250 as a penalty per violation from shelter operators.

The bill followed a report issued last year by the San Francisco Coalition on Homelessness that documented complaints from users of the shelters, who said they experienced harassment and physical violence and a lack of such necessities as food and toilet paper.

Mayor Gavin Newsom’s homeless policy director, Dariush Kayhan, said he supported the bill, adding that “there’s room for improvement” in the shelters.

If conditions are more welcoming, Kayhan said, then The City would be able to better connect with those in need and provide the services to help them off of the streets.

The costs to implement the standards, according to Ammiano’s office will be about $135,000 annually, which includes hiring a new employee at the Department of Public Health to ensure compliance and an initial one-time cost of $108,000 for purchase of washers and dryers.

“The residents in some ways have really been neglected,” Jennifer Friedenbach, Coalition on Homelessness executive director, said. “[The bill] gives us the opportunity to transform the shelter system into one that truly treats people with dignity and respect and is a long time coming.”

The Board of Supervisors Government Audit and Oversight Committee voted Monday to send the legislation to the full board with recommendation for approval. The board will vote on it March 18.

jsabatini@examiner.com

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