SAN FRANCISCO—On Tuesday, November 21 Mayor Edwin Lee, Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing Director Jeff Kositsky, the San Francisco Interfaith Council and Episcopal Community Services announced the schedule and details for the Interfaith Winter Shelter Program, an initiative that provides additional shelter services at local churches. The Interfaith Winter Shelter Program increases city shelter capacity to meet increased demand for San Franciscans living on the streets and in tents during colder, wetter winter months

“We are always working on moving individuals off the streets and into stable living situations, and these efforts take on even greater urgency during the cold, rainy months of the winter,” said Mayor Edwin M. Lee. “We are incredibly grateful that our partners in the faith-based community are once again opening up their doors and welcoming residents who are experiencing homelessness. During these times of great need, they are literally providing shelter from the storm.”

According to a press release from the Mayor’s Office, the Interfaith Winter Shelter Program is in its 29th year, and began on Sunday, November 19, and will run through Saturday, February 24, 2018. The City and Episcopal Community Services (ECS) collaborate with the San Francisco Interfaith Council (SFIC) to assist with additional shelter services to homeless San Franciscans during the winter months. The Interfaith Council works to identify the four host churches where the overnight shelter is located and to identify the church groups, congregations and community groups who sign up to provide the evening meals throughout the program.

Spaces are reserved on a first come, first served basis each Sunday. The reservation ticket allows the guest a seven-night stay. Two meals will be served to shelter guests each night. Last year, more than 95 percent of the beds were occupied for the Winter Shelter Program.

“The November rains are a stark reminder of the need to shelter and feed those in need who find themselves at our doorsteps,” said SFIC Executive Director Michael Pappas. “For nearly three decades the SFIC, in cooperation with ECS, the City, the Night Ministry, our host congregations St. Boniface Church, St. Mark’s Lutheran Church, the Cathedral of St. Mary of the Assumption, the First Unitarian Universalist Society and the fifty congregations and organizations who prepare and serve meals, collectively constitute the miracle we call the Interfaith Winter Shelter Program.  Together, we offer this labor of love in emulation of the values espoused by our City’s patron Saint Francis.”

ECS is funded by the Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing (HSH) to give the operational staff that handles daily logistics in the host congregations. ECS is also manages, supervises, and engage guests towards housing stabilization. The Winter Shelter Program increases HSH’s sheltering capacity from 5 percent to 8 percent on any given night throughout the winter, when shelter demand increases.

“Episcopal Community Services is proud to lend our operational expertise to Interfaith Shelter again this year,” said Beth Stokes, Executive Director of ECS. “Shelter is even more crucial during these winter months when weather conditions cause tremendous hardship and exacerbate health challenges for chronically unhoused people living on the streets. For many of our guests, coming in from the cold at Interfaith Winter Shelter and engaging with staff and with services will be the first step towards accessing permanent housing – the only solution to homelessness.”

The regular adult emergency shelter program will operate in parallel with the Interfaith Winter Shelter Program.  Access information is available on HSH’s website, shelter reservation and resource center sites and by calling 3-1-1.

The Women’s Winter Shelter Program at Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church was converted to a year-round women’s shelter program operated by the Providence Foundation. This program has been in operation since November 2014, providing 30 beds every night.

“Each winter more of our fellow San Franciscans in need seek shelter from the cold and wet weather,” said Jeff Kositsky, Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing Director.  “Through this partnership we are able to serve more people while also providing meaningful opportunities to build greater compassion and understanding for our brothers and sisters on the streets.”

For additional information about the Winter Shelter Program and HSH’s Emergency Shelter Programs please visit:​.

The Winter Shelter Schedule For Single Adult Men is as follows: St. Boniface Church located at 133 Golden Gate Ave. November 19 – December 8 Capacity: 60; Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Assumption located at 1111 Gough Street December 16 – January 13 Capacity: 100;

St. Mark’s Lutheran Church located at 1031 Franklin Street December 9 – December 15, January 14 – February 3 Capacity: 65; First Unitarian Universalist Society of San Francisco located at 1187 Franklin Street February 4 – February 24 Capacity: 70.

Written By Casey Jacobs