Declaring a Shelter Crisis

London Breed
3 min readJan 15, 2019


We cannot just say there is a homelessness crisis in San Francisco and continue moving at our normal pace. We need immediate action to address the public emergency and help our unsheltered residents we see every day on our streets. That is why today I introduced legislation to declare a shelter crisis in San Francisco, which would allow the City to take more immediate action to help people off of the streets and into care and shelter.

These two ordinances will streamline administrative, contracting, building, and planning code red tape that delays the construction of new shelters and the delivery of services to those in need. Our own bureaucracy should not and cannot get in the way of our efforts to get people sheltered.

Bottom line: we can build shelters and contract for services more quickly, with fewer delays. We can help more people now.

The recently opened Bryant Street Navigation Center will serve 84 clients and provide them with case management, services, and allow them to bring their partners, pets, and possessions. It includes a separate women-only section that serves up to 20 clients at a time.

In October, I announced that I am committed to opening 1,000 new shelter beds by 2020 to clear our nightly waitlist for shelter. In the last two months we have added 212 new beds on our way towards that goal, and 338 in total since I’ve taken office, and we are identifying sites for new shelters. Additionally, I have proposed spending the $181 million in discretionary funding from the recently announced windfall on affordable housing and homelessness programs, including the expansion of 300 new spaces in homeless shelters and Navigation Centers.

The hard part is actually getting these shelters built. Bureaucracy and red tape should not delay our efforts to bring help to those in need. Here’s how this legislation will help:

The first ordinance would allow the City to streamline the contracting and permitting process for the construction of new homeless shelters as well the contracting process for homelessness services. Rather than having to go through the usual three to six month contracting process for each project or program, City departments would vet a pool of contractors who can provide services and then choose from this pool for future projects. To ensure accountability, the ordinance requires HSH and DPW to submit detailed annual reports on all contracts awarded under this expedited procedure.

Additionally, this ordinance would remove planning code barriers to opening shelters in certain zoning districts that currently have limitations or restrictions. HSH would be required to undergo a community process prior to the opening of any site-based service like a shelter. The Board of Supervisor would have oversight of all contracts rewarded under this expedited procedures, and would be able to veto proposed shelter locations by majority vote.

Greeting one of the clients at Bryant Street Navigation Center at the grand opening earlier this month.

The second ordinance would opt-in the City to AB932, authored by Assemblymember Phil Ting, which streamlines the building and planning code approval process for homeless shelters by implementing expedited approval procedures, which would reduce the process by a matter of months.

The shelter crisis would remain in place for five years, or until there is a 30% reduction in homelessness as measured by the Point in Time Count, the City’s biennial survey of homeless individuals. I want to thank Supervisors Vallie Brown, Shamann Walton, Rafael Mandelman, and Matt Haney for co-sponsoring this legislation.

We cannot allow people to continue sleeping on the streets, we need more shelters and we need them now. Let’s get them built!