SF piloting tiny cabins for homeless people as a cost-effective alternative to tents

By Kevin Fagan, San Francisco Chronicle, September 20, 2021

“[Two parking lots near City Hall] have been used since December as a city-sanctioned ‘safe sleeping village,’ holding 44 tents for unhoused people while they get counseling aimed at routing them into permanent homes. Those tents will be replaced by late fall with 70 tiny homes, dubbed cabins, similar to those already in use for years in Oakland, the Peninsula, and San Jose.

“The cabins are a pilot program, and this test is just the latest technique the city is trying in light of the spike in homelessness during the pandemic. […]

“In San Francisco, building housing units from the ground up costs hundreds of thousands of dollars per unit. Group shelters typically cost more than $40,000 per bed to build. LifeMoves’ tiny houses cost $10,000 per unit.

“San Francisco had always been resistant to installing tiny homes rather than group shelters because of the severe shortage of open, unused space in the city. But the pandemic forced officials to be more flexible, and sheltering people in outdoor tents was found to be safer than placing them in confined, indoor congregate shelters.

“Given that the city will be working this year with more money than it has ever devoted to homelessness, the pressure will be on to show results.

“Several people who work or live in the area seemed to embrace the cabin idea, citing the lack of trouble associated with the tent site.”

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