What is sheltered homelessness?
Shelter programs are temporary interventions targeted toward individuals experiencing homelessness focused on providing protection from the elements, a secure place to sleep, and connection to resources, including housing).
What is the need for shelter in the Bay Area?
There were more than 10,000 temporary shelter beds available in the Bay Area in 2019,12019 HIC which served over 28,000 different people over the year.2SPM 3.2: 28,054 only includes HMIS participating shelters. On the night when the PIT count was conducted in each of the nine counties, approximately 94% of the shelter beds were full (9,339 of the 10,148 available).32019 PIT
Meanwhile, there were upwards of 25,000 people living unsheltered. In some cases, shelter beds remained open while people lived on the streets or in encampments. Some shelters have restrictions or barriers to entry, such as limitations on who can stay (e.g., only women and children, only youth) or they have strict rules and/or prohibit people from bringing to the shelter, partners, possessions, or pets.
Exacerbating the fact that there were not enough shelter beds for people in need, the number of people who are first-time homeless continues to increase by the thousands. In 2019, more people became homeless for the first time (13,660) than there were shelter beds for the entire Bay Area.
What are the bright spots in the Bay Area’s shelter interventions?
The following are a selection of impactful intervention approaches to shelter being used in the Bay Area. As unsheltered homeless has grown in the Bay Area, low-cost and non-traditional approaches to shelter have also grown in popularity, including several models identified below.
Ensuring that shelters are housing-focused and low-barrier is a promising practice for serving the most vulnerable homeless individuals in each community. Housing-focused programs are designed to offer services to support program participants exit to permanent housing, offering housing navigation services, landlord mediation, and other housing-related services. Low-barrier shelters have admissions policies that screen-in (not screen out) households, and welcome pets, partners, and possessions. They have minimal rules that focus on safety and provide the ability for people to come and go, with 24-hour operations.
San Francisco County
San Francisco’s Navigation Centers provide referral-based access to case management, medical services, benefits, and time-limited shelter for unsheltered adults. From March 2015 to February 2019, 46% of Navigation Center participants (2,094 individuals) had successful exits.
Homeward Bound’s Family Center in Marin County provides shelter for families at a shared home in San Rafael. The “housing-focused shelter” offers counseling, support for employment and housing search, food assistance, tutoring and help with credit repair or other financial goals. All residents expected to engage in developing plans to obtain stable housing.
The City of Berkeley’s STAIR Center is a housing navigation center program that works with local government and non-profits to help people transition from encampments or street living into the a low-barrier, housing-focused navigation center. While there, STAIR staff help residents find options for housing, access public benefits, and develop necessary life skills.
Bridge Housing aims to immediately transition vulnerable clients out of homelessness in order to provide a stable experience that can facilitate placement into permanent housing.
Santa Clara County
HomeFirst’s Bridge Housing (BHC) Program, a partnership with Habitat East Bay Silicon Valley and the City of San José, provides safe and secure interim housing to eligible individuals enrolled in Santa Clara County and City of San José Rapid Rehousing Programs. Participants receive an array of on-site supportive services and access to resources needed to build a lifestyle of self-sufficiency.
Evans Lane, in San José, is a bridge housing project under a partnership between the City, People Assisting the Homeless (PATH) and Abode Services. The bridge housing is a tiny homes community that offers private cabins to 50 families transitioning to permanent housing. Once families move in, they will receive services from a multi-disciplinary provider team, including specialists focusing on health, housing, and employment.
The Bridges program in Sonoma County, is a program of the Community Support Network in partnership with Sonoma County Behavioral Health. They provide support to residents with on-site staff to help set goals and participate in case management. They learn about money management, housing opportunities, and accessing community resources such as local food banks and public transportation.
Rehabilitating Hotels, Motels, or other underutilized building into emergency shelters and then into permanent housing provides non-congregate temporary housing solutions.
San Mateo County
In Half Moon Bay, the County of San Mateo purchased a local hotel and converted it into the Shelter Coastside Inn, the first homeless shelter for the San Mateo County coastal area. The shelter provides personal privacy in individual rooms, the option for partners to be sheltered together, and allows local individuals experiencing homelessness to maintain a connection to their home community.
Marin County converted the Carmel Hotel to a shelter that is now run by Homeward Bound of Marin. The Voyager Carmel Center provides housing and supportive services to adults struggling with mental illness. The facility has 36 rooms, 10 of which are used for shelter and the other 26 are dedicated to long-term supportive housing.
Manufactured Temporary Housing
Manufactured housing like cabins, sheds, and temporary structures can offer a lower cost solution to constructing or acquiring new shelter buildings than traditional, brick-and-mortar structures.
The City of Oakland and Operation Dignity partnered to create the Community Cabins program, a sheltering program hosted in single occupancy cabins. The Community Cabins have on-site Housing Navigators that help clients obtain necessary documents, look for employment, access benefits, and connect with permanent supportive housing or transitional housing programs.
Samuel Jones Hall Annex in the City of Santa Rosa added 60 additional shelter beds to a co-located existing shelter using a Sprung structure. The shelter annex is scheduled to open in mid-January 2021 and will restore the shelter bed capacity that was lost due to social-distancing restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Santa Clara County
HomeFirst in Santa Clara County implemented Emergency Interim Housing (EIH) in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Considered tiny homes, the EIH units are available to single adults and couples and come with a bathroom (including a shower), with shared laundry facilities, a kitchen, computer lab, dog run, gardens, and on-site supportive services.
Sanctioned encampments, tent parking lots, and safe parking models are temporary solutions to a lack of shelter space. These models provide opportunities for unsheltered homeless individuals to sleep outdoors with access to essential services (e.g., bathrooms) and without being asked to move by law enforcement. Encampments that are self-governed particularly center the autonomy and dignity of the individuals living there.
Between May and November 2020, the City of Santa Rosa and Catholic Charities operated the Safe Social Distancing Program (SSDP), a collection of 70 tents co-located in a 24,600 square foot parking lot. The program was established as a temporary shelter measure well other shelter options were expanded in the City and served 154 individuals.
San Francisco County
San Francisco County’s safe sleep sites are city-managed locations that allow individuals to sleep in tents and have access to services, including housing-focused outreach. Safe sleep sites are a temporary shelter model in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
San Mateo County
Redwood City in San Mateo County is opening an RV Safe Parking Pilot Program, that includes an on-street RV Parking Permit Program and an off-street RV Safe Parking Facility. Both on-street and off-street participants will have access to wastewater disposal vouchers and case workers to help residents get connected with social services, employment assistance and permanent housing.
Alameda County’s Safe Parking Program offers connections to resources through partnerships with Abode Services, the General Services Agency, Pet Express, etc. There are several additional safe parking programs operating in Alameda County, including programs in the cities of Oakland and Union City.
The Village is a movement in the City of Oakland that builds emergency homes and provides services and mutual aid for unsheltered individuals while developing leadership among residents. It is a community-driven, dignity-centered response that includes multiple sites that strive to enable pathways of self-sufficiency. In January 2020, they built a “micro-development,” the Right to Exist Curbside Community, of 11 small homes on a median in Oakland.
Stay Over Programs
Stay over programs re-purpose buildings that are typically not used overnight (e.g., churches, schools, libraries) as shelter accommodations.
San Francisco County
The Stay Over Program is a collaboration between San Francisco Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing (HSH), San Francisco Unified School District, and Dolores Street Community Services. The program allows homeless families whose children are enrolled in the school to stay overnight in the school gymnasium. The program works to connect participating families with resources and services to help them secure a more stable housing situation.
Contra Costa County
The Interfaith Council of Contra Costa County started the Winter Nights program, a rotating warming center, in collaboration with local churches. Set up as a series of small tents, residents have access to showers, with local church volunteers serving both breakfast and dinner. The program has been so successful that they the Council spun of the Winter Nights Family Shelters into its own non-profit.
- 12019 HIC
- 2SPM 3.2: 28,054 only includes HMIS participating shelters.
- 32019 PIT