Breed's administration has been subject to public censure in recent days for its now-scrapped plans to move unhoused people into the Palace of Fine Arts and the Moscone Center, both of which were swiftly converted into makeshift coronavirus shelters earlier this month with room to accommodate 165 and 390 people, respectively. Housing activists and Supervisors alike raised concerns about the size and safety of the facilities, which included limited bathrooms and hand-washing stations, and, in general, seemed like “a very bad idea” as Haney put it. The uproar resulted in an abrupt about-face from the city, which then began to relocate unhoused individuals into the initial round of 2,000 available hotel rooms. To date, 780 people have moved into them. “We have the hotel rooms, we have the staffing, why wouldn’t we do this right now and save thousands of lives,” said Supervisor Hillary Ronen during a press conference held last Friday. “We have been given every excuse in the book why this isn’t possible.” Shortly after the emergency hotel ordinance was first announced, one of San Francisco’s largest homeless shelters, the MSC South Shelter, experienced a major outbreak in which 91 people, including a handful of staffers, tested positive for the virus. Over 400 people were cleared from the shelter and have been placed in hotel rooms, a move that Haney says should have happened weeks, even months, ago. “We’ve been getting a new excuse every week as to why they can’t do this,” he told NBC Bay Area. The city plans to reopen the MSC South and transformed it into a recovery center for shelter guests who previously tested positive after it is fully sanitized. The outbreak at MSC South is being depicted as one that was largely preventable. Outside of San Francisco, New York is also beginning to move its homeless population into unoccupied hotel rooms. Mayor de Blasio announced during a weekend press conference that 2,5000 unhoused individuals will be relocated from shelters to hotels over the course of this week. Like in San Francisco, priority will be given to the elderly and individuals with preexisting health conditions or those who are experiencing symptoms of or have tested positive for the virus. “Some shelters have a lot of space, some do not,” said de Blasio, who has come under increasing pressure from advocacy groups and health professionals to free up the city’s massive inventory of available hotel rooms to the unsheltered. “Where it’s clear to our Department of Social Services and our Department of Homeless Services that social distancing cannot be achieved properly, a number of those clients will be moved to hotels to achieve the balance, to make sure there is the proper social distancing.”
Dear Mayor @LondonBreed,Today, the Board of Supervisors spoke for our city and unanimously passed an emergency hotel ordinance. We urge you to sign it now and save thousands of homeless San Franciscans from being infected by COVID19. Sincerely, San Francisco — Coalition on Homelessness (@TheCoalitionSF) April 15, 2020
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Yahoo News reported that city officials are also mulling converting vacant motels and hotels to house homeless individuals as the outbreak spreads. “This is an immense undertaking logistically and it’s never been done this quickly in a city, anywhere,” said Garcetti in a statement. “If we don’t get folks off the street, they will become the main spreaders or among the main spreaders of COVID-19 and a threat to themselves.” To date, no unsheltered person in Los Angeles has tested positive for the coronavirus. Outside of Los Angeles, a homeless man in the Santa Clara Valley died earlier this week from COVID-19 in the first known instance of an unsheltered individual succumbing to the virus. There are, as of March 17, 138 cases in ultra-wealthy Santa Clara County and 297 across the greater San Francisco Bay Area. San Jose, California’s third most populous city, has installed hand-washing stations, portable toilets, and showers near established homeless encampments to promote improved hygiene, as reported by Bay Area CBS affiliate KPIX. In the wake of the reported death, however, homeless advocates are urging officials to enact greater, more urgent measures a la Los Angeles. “We’re accelerating efforts to identify motels and other locations where we can move folks as soon as the testing indicates we need to get them out and away from others,” said San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo in a statement. In San Francisco, plans to provide emergency shelters to its homeless population are also coming together. Trent Rhorer, head of the city’s Human Services Agency, is currently in the process of securing large facilities that could accommodate, in the words of the San Francisco Chronicle, “at least 3,500 people who are either unsheltered or who live in congregant settings where they have to share bathrooms and kitchens and cannot self-quarantine.” Shuttered college campuses and churches are being considered by Rhorer and other city officials as are vacant hotels and motels. As the Chronicle reports, Rhorer has already secured 500 hotel rooms for the express purpose of housing the homeless. Across the Bay in Oakland, the state government has also secured two hotels with nearly 400 rooms between them in a bid to shield the unhoused from the virus. However, one not-so-insignificant issue remains: how does the city staff these temporary facilities with case managers, drug counselors, and other workers that would normally be on-hand at a non-ephemeral homeless shelter? Rhorer is confident that it can happen. “It’s not like just setting up an emergency shelter in an earthquake,” he told the Chronicle. “But we can do this. We don’t have a cash flow issue in this city, so we can move fast. You brace for the worst and hope for the best.”
In moments of crisis, we have to respond with every possible resource. Today I activated the Disaster Service Worker program, so we can redeploy any @LACity employee necessary to combat the COVID-19 crisis and assist in efforts to house the homeless. https://t.co/7XDrK0zW5v— Mayor Eric Garcetti (@MayorOfLA) March 19, 2020
The Berkeley city staff will spend the next few months determining an ideal site for the project as well as the manufacturers for the tents. During the encampment’s trial run, the project is expected to operate for less than a year and will largely function as a means of protection for those in need against extreme outdoor temperatures during the winter months.
“We know that people of color, and particularly Native Americans, are disproportionately represented in the homeless population, and we are committed to tackling that challenge. With our first completed modular housing project, we are partnering with the Chief Seattle Club to focus on providing safe housing and onsite services for urban Native residents. With Eagle Village, we are turning plans into action, and dreams into hope.”While there currently aren't plans to expand Eagle Village at its current site, King County will develop other transitional housing communities in Seattle and beyond. Like Eagle Village, all of these future sites will revolve around modular living units once used to house oil workers in Houston. In addition to the six converted trailers now housing the residents of Eagle Village, King County has purchased another 14 Texas-sourced trailers for $90,000 each, with the goal of generating 75 new housing units—units that have the potential to make a world of difference to those who live in them, even if they’re only there a short spell.
In a strange attempt to deter homeless people from camping out at a waterfront pavilion (and a great example of hostile urbanism), authorities in West Palm Beach, Florida have been blasting children’s songs from a public address system on loop overnight. The Lake Pavilion, which is adjacent to a public park and a promenade facing the Intracoastal Waterway, regularly hosts private events that rake in around $240,000 each year. The low-slung building has floor-to-ceiling windows and an expansive terrace that make it particularly popular with guests, especially as a wedding venue. West Palm Beach Director of Parks and Recreation Leah Rockwell told the Palm Beach Post that playing such recent hits as "Baby Shark" and "Raining Tacos" on a continuous loop is necessary to keep the event space “clean and open” for paying customers.
The decision to weaponize music against those who sleep on the property highlights Palm Beach County’s relatively pronounced homelessness problem. West Palm Beach alone accounts for a large portion of the county’s 1,400 homeless people, whose plight has been exacerbated by a lack of affordable housing in the Greater Miami Area. According to a report published by the Miami Urban Future Initiative, the metropolitan region’s enormous housing stock of 2.5 million units consists primarily of high-priced condominiums and single-family homes. Greater Miami, which encompasses urban centers like Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach, ranks among the top ten most expensive rental markets in the nation.
While hostile architecture is nothing new, West Palm Beach’s deployment of "Baby Shark" against the homeless has generated considerable pushback from both locals and observers across the country. Critics argue that the city should focus its resources on support for the unsheltered, but Rockwell insists that the music is only a temporary solution. Once the park’s hours are finalized, she says, the municipal government will be better equipped to control who is at the pavilion during nighttime hours. It is unclear, however, how targeting the homeless for trespassing will resolve the broader issues at hand. It's also worth noting that this type of sonic warfare is nothing new; retail stores and local governments across the U.S. have been playing high-pitched squeals that only young people can hear to deter loitering teens for decades. Another place music is played all night long to deter sleeping? Guantanamo Bay, where the government has reportedly used non-stop rock, metal, and children's song playlists to keep detainees up for days on end.