Research: The success of San Francisco’s pandemic hotel housing program

When the pandemic hit, San Francisco was one of the cities that took advantage of empty hotel rooms to safely house the unsheltered and slow the spread of Covid-19. Now, almost a year down the line, researchers are understandably curious about the impact this public health move had on the city’s case numbers. Research, conducted by academics and city officials, found that the program had a considerable impact on reducing the city’s overall cases and lightening the load on city hospitals. 

The hotel housing program was launched just three days after San Francisco instituted a mandatory stay-at-home order. Between March 19 and May 31, over 1,000 people who were either unsheltered or living in high-density living situations checked into the hotels. Of those who checked in, 463 were diagnosed with Covid-19, but with isolation, testing, and shelter, the city was able to trace the cases and halt what could have been a massive outbreak among the city’s estimated 8,000 unsheltered residents. 

In addition to isolation and testing, residents were provided with free physician consultations, wellness checks, and meals. Organizers were even able to connect some residents with long-term housing solutions or relatives to lend a helping hand to move them out of homelessness. 

Overall, the researchers deemed that hotel housing programs for the unsheltered during a pandemic are effective. Hopefully, this research will better inform public policy in the case of future pandemics and even offer a course of action for other types of crises like natural disasters. 

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