SAN FRANCISCO—San Francisco’s Healthy Streets Operation Center is offering shelter assistance and hotel rooms to people living in homeless tent encampments. 

According to its website, the HSOC was developed in 2018 to better coordinate the city agencies involved in addressing homelessness and unhealthy street behaviors. Its team has been engaged in efforts to decrease the number of tent encampments in San Francisco for months. HSOC manager Jeff Kositsky, newly appointed in May, says the city started the year with 400 tents and became 1,200 within 6 weeks. 

This surge is largely linked to the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, which drove people out of San Francisco shelters in March and lost almost 2,000 shelter beds. 

The city has reportedly made progress in the Tenderloin and moved onto Hayes Valley on July 31, one neighborhood with higher-than-average tent numbers. On the east side of Octavia St., site of a homeless encampment stretching 3 blocks, the HSOC team offered homeless people shelter assistance, including rides to shelters, and hotel rooms to people over 60 years old or those highly susceptible to COVID-19. Some individuals accepted, others refused and left in search of a new area.  

When asked about HSOC’s progress in Tenderloin, Kositsky estimated, “fewer than 70 people of the more than 700 people we encountered, much less than 10 percent of the folks, went somewhere else. In most cases they went somewhere else in the Tenderloin, because we’d see them again”. Along with HSOC, Kositsky has served as the Director of Homelessness and Supportive Housing since its founding in 2016.