SAN FRANCISCO—The city of San Francisco is looking to build more sanctioned housing and shelters across the city for the homeless population. On Tuesday, October 20, Board of Supervisor Rafael Mandelman announced he plans to introduce new legislation that would force the city’s homeless department to calculate how many safe sleeping shelters would be needed to meet demand.

Once that number is determined, the city’s homeless department would be given 18 months to create the sites. The city has not specified how they will pay for it, or how much it will cost.

The first safe sleeping site for San Francisco’s homeless populations opened at the start of the pandemic, when shelters closed to reduce the spread. The new safe sleeping sites are wide enough to provide enough space to social distance, and are also provided with hand-washing stations, restrooms, and social workers to look after the people housed in the sites. The sites are also meant to be cleaner and more private than a congregation of shelters on public streets.

The city has found that safe sleeping encampments are an easier and more affordable option for the city. According to city officials, shelters can cost millions of dollars to construct and run each year, while the safe sleeping encampments are estimated to cost of $700,000 a unit.

Statistics show that homeless populations prefer these sites to their previous situations. According to recent survey of 584 homeless individuals conducted by the Coalition on Homelessness, 58 percent of those surveyed said they prefer a “legal free campsite” compared to their existing shelters.