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Supervisor to Consider Temporary Villages for S.F. Homeless

San Francisco Public Press
 — Mar 10 2015 - 10:15am

In the fight to end homelessness, San Francisco officials will consider creating “transitional villages” — sites where people could live temporarily in tents, trailers or even shipping containers while they receive services and await permanent housing.

San Francisco has long struggled with chronic homelessness, as we outlined last fall in a special report.

Supervisor Mark Farrell and other speakers will weigh in on the villages on Wednesday evening at a “Town Hall to End Homelessness” in the Hayes Valley neighborhood, said AngelHack founder Greg Gopman, who organized the event and will propose the policy approach alongside prominent homeless service providers. Gopman drew fervent criticism for lashing out at the homeless in a Facebook post in 2013, but has been apologizing and researching the problem ever since; he has published several columns this winter calling for a civic conversation on how to get homeless people off the street and into housing.

Wednesday’s meeting runs from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Nourse Theater. Others slated to participate include Supervisor Jane Kim and San Francisco Chronicle reporters.

“We want to challenge ourselves to think past traditional models,” said Jess Montejano, Supervisor Farrell’s legislative aide. Montejano suggested the villages could occupy land the city already owned or older buildings that the city could afford to buy.

Farrell finds the repurposed shipping containers appealing, Montejano said, largely because they are so inexpensive. As we wrote in our summer special report, artist Luke Iseman paid $2,300 for one and spent another $10,000 to add solar panels, a refrigerator and other amenities.

But if San Francisco creates temporary housing akin to Iseman’s West Oakland container community, Boxouse, it also would have to figure out how to provide residents with safe, legal electrical and plumbing systems. And it would have to address whether containers have lead paint because they were not intended for human occupancy, issues for which building and health officials have threatened to cite Boxouse dwellers, Oakland North reported.

Gopman said transitional villages might also follow the model of the Navigation Center that the city is creating in the Mission District. Starting this month, up to 75 people at a time will live in dorms there until construction begins on 125 below-market-rate homes there in about eight to 18 months.

“I’d like to believe that there’s a lot of land that the government or developers are planning to build on,” Gopman said.

Correction 3/10/2015: This article originally stated that Supervisor Mark Farrell would propose creating the transitional villages. It has since been corrected.