turned on hotel regio signage

The San Francisco SIP Hotel Program Saved My Life. Save The ‘Homeless Hotel’ Program!

Even though I am out of here on Monday, I was very distressed to read that 25 SIP hotels in San Francisco are scheduled to close, leaving 2000 people that are housed in them to have to find alternate options. For most of these people, the vast majority, there is no other options. I read a lot of complaints about ‘homeless’ in San Francisco, and even an taxi driver today was bitching about the homeless, not realizing I am one of the unhomed people he had so much vitriol for. The powers that be will make sure that the people they want to throw out will leave the places that they have called home for the last year or so, since the start of the pandemic. I read the last remaining homeless resident of the Diva Hotel was arrested on an outstanding warrant. I wonder how many of the residents ended up back on the streets.

In weekly community shelter meetings we have been warned for the last few months that the pandemic is ‘over’ and that although this shelter has funding to continue until the end of the year that we shouldn’t make ourselves too comfortable. We are also told if we don’t like the rules here then there is a tent in the alleyway outside for us and our children. Of course this serves to unsettle and upset the people who rely on the SIP hotel in order to stay off the street. Make no mistake there are families with children living on the streets of San Francisco. I have seen a mother in the gutter trying to wash her child’s clothes, as a sad little face stares grubbily out from the tent they live in. That alleyway saw a murder over this summer, and is the scene of much violence, homosexual and straight prostitution and open IV drug use. It is where you go if you want a blow job or a rock, a fight or a fuck. It is not where you try and raise a child amongst the human excrement and danger. It is not the mother’s fault, and I know there will be people reading who jump to that conclusion, that she is somehow to blame. I tell you now, the fact that rent is so expensive, that there are barriers to getting into the limited domestic violence shelters and the homeless shelters, and yes, the challenges of surviving addiction make that homeless mother’s situation almost impossible. I guarantee you she is doing the best she can. The only difference between me and her is that I play the game and I know how to advocate for myself.

A room in a SIP hotel means the difference between success and failure for families, and individuals on the street. There is no way anyone can get clean while they are sleeping outside. Getting drunk and high is the only way to deal with being homeless. The indignities, the dangers, the hopelessness the dirt and the discomfort pervade your every waking moment, and forget sleeping. Sleeping has to be done during daylight hours and somewhere as open as possible, you sleep with one eye open. Once people are in rooms with water and electric and a bathroom, they can begin to heal up. My health has improved dramatically. I was not going to last another winter outside. My son has stopped sneezing and wheezing. I still have issues, and have not been able to secure healthcare, but I clean, and I have been able to stay sober. The shelter saved us.

As hard as it is in a shelter, as tough as life has been in here: the noise, the occasional violent behavior, intimidation and the partying, the inability to cook meals, and the petty rules that make people feel less human than they should, as difficult as all of that is, make no mistake, the San Francisco SIP (Shelter In Place) hotel program saved my life and saved the Boy’s future. It is not only us, there are so many families here who have been able to move out of cars under the Oakland underpass, out from tents, and buses, and other inadequate accommodation, and start to rebuild productive healthy lives. My mental health has been better, I have been able to write and work, and create and breathe, and just stop moving from here to there not able to ever put down roots or find solutions. Now I am about to move into an apartment with my child, and that means more to me than I can express. It means life. It means not giving up. It means a chance.

The purchase of these four hotels – (I failed to find details about the other three that were not behind a paywall) means the difference between life and death for people, some of whom are children. Not only that it is better for the city that people get inside and in treatment. Trust me, no one can kick hard drugs outside. Kicking heroin/fentadope involves a messy, bone breaking withdrawal. With no access to a restroom and a quiet space it is absolutely impossible. Get people linked up to the assistance they need, get them feeling clean and cared for, and well fed, and watch the crime and social problems disappear. It is better for everyone to put homeless people in homes.

Everybody wants to deal with homelessness, but they don’t want to find solutions. The solution is to use all those hotels that are wasted on tourism and put the people in the street into programs run from these single room occupancy hotels, that take care of their social and medical needs. Between the social workers and the staff here, I have been able to acclimatize to living inside again, I dared to dream about a future. Now I am looking at moving into my own home with my son. The program kept what was left of my family together, and helped us thrive. It provided stability and security and safety. The hotels for homeless program works.

Not only that, San Francisco has applied to buy four hotels in the San Francisco area, and to start to move homeless people into them. Of course, there is pushback from residents of these areas. I know my beloved Japantown is not happy at the thought of hosting the homeless community in their part of Western Addition. There is considerable community pushback and this breaks my heart. The hotel which serves the community I have been a part of for the last ten months, is not a hotbed of anything other than the recovery of people’s lives. There is no trouble outside. There is occasionally trouble inside, but there is always security here. If anyone is caught dealing or using the rooms for prostitution they would be gone. No visitors are allowed, and there is always someone in the lobby maing sure this is adhered to. The hotel is monitored 24 hours a day. The residents are in more danger from those outside the community, than those within it. If San Francisco wants to solve the homeless issue then they need to give up some HOMES for those that need them.

The petition to stop the purchase of the Hotel Buchanan in Japantown is an example of the worst of humanity. People want the eyesore of the homeless off the streets, but begrudge them a space to just be. Having a hotel which will house the homeless is not something that the residents and businesses of Japantown should resist. Embrace the healthing, embrace the change, embrace the love for our fellow humans. Homeless people pose no danger to the existence of Japantown, no existential threat is brought into being by simply putting human beings into sanitary housing conditions. Treat people like humans and they start acting like humans. How could anyone be so heartless, let alone the wonderful and vibrant Japanese community in Western Addition, a community that my son belongs to, and we both love so much, and spend so much of our free time in? Show some love! Show compassion! Show people that people matter, no matter what their financial status, or their problems and challenges. There but for Fate and Chance go all of us, and there I am.

As hard as this has been for me and the Boy, it has made all the difference to our lives and the ability we had to forge a bright future. The homeless hotel has helped one halfu Japanese kid dream of a future where he can be a success. The purchase of the Hotel Buchanan can help so many more people, as will the other three hotels up for purchase by the city to house the homeless long term.

Don’t fear change: be the love and the compassion and the helping hand back up into civilized living conditions that people need. When I came here I had sore that hadn’t healed up, I was very thin, my mental health was not great because I was constantly worrying if today or tomorrow was going to be the day I would never see my son again. The Boy was scared and depressed and felt set apart from his peers. With the program he has flourished and has friends and a social life. It gave him a chance he had not had before, and I could not be more grateful.

So long as the staff and security people stay on top of new residents and any possible behavioral and mental health issues they have, and there is adequate social worker input, it might not be perfect, but it is a damn sight better than any other option. Group shelters still alienate and fail to make people feel like people. The hotel program gives the gift of a transition towards stability, and what a priceless gift it is!

These hotels are literally sitting on space not being used by tourists when they could be part of the solution in fixing a huge and devastating social problem.

The hotel program is making a real difference to the lives of good people who just need a chance to shine. The SF Chronicle positioning this knee-jerk ‘not in my back yard’ reaction towards these hotels as a resident ‘fightback’ is a dereliction of editorial duty to do no harm to the city they write about. It is creating an Us and Them mentality, hostility towards those of us that life has beat down on until we broke. It is cruel and callous and to be frank, makes me wonder about the ivory tower some of these journos live in that they fail to see the big picture of what is better for a city with a large desperate struggling homeless population that needs some help and compassion. A failure to see the bigger picture and whip up hostility to programs which will be for the good of all San Franciscan residents, is not helping the dying Japantown with its empty stores and malls, and not helping the city as a community. I would implore them to do better, but the stench of privilege means they would never understand, not in a million years.


    1. The Paltry Sum

      If the hotels were allowed to stay open and people given assistance, they would cease to be a burden on society and could make meaningful lives. It is truly the best option and the very least that should be provided. People can get to work if they have somewhere to sleep!

    1. The Paltry Sum

      I hope I can make a small difference to people’s lives. I move on Monday. I can barely concentrate on anything. Im trying to pack up. No one can help me move us, so it will take a few trips walking with stuff, maybe taking a taxi with the suitcases. It’s only a few blocks. Treating me like a human saved my life. We should be trying to lift people up not erase them and wait for them to die on the streets.

      1. Christopher

        Yeah that really sucks. Thank goodness it’s only a few blocks at least. I think you’ve got it right Detroit. I wish more people would see things the way you do. I didn’t think about things the way you do now in my past. It was like I was walking around with blinders on, not being able to see the obvious. It’s really hard to understand certain things when you’ve never been through it. That’s why your voice is so important. 🙂

      2. The Paltry Sum

        That is so kind of you to say so, Christopher. It makes me very happy to hear that you see things in a more compassionate way. If I actually get myself into this apartment, the long term damage is going to show. I don’t think I am ever going to feel safe in a home again. If people can be given a tiny bit of stability, a room in a building that is theirs, then they can start to heal up. I desperately want that for people. I want people to be given the chance I was.

      3. Christopher

        Thank you Detroit! Yeah unfortunately that makes sense, and I’m really sorry to hear that 🙁 Considering how long you’ve had to stay out there. And the fact that you’ve managed to survive out there for this long…. It blows my mind. Thank goodness that you got that chance. And you’re absolutely right. I wish they could all get that same chance as you, I agree. It makes me sad to think about how the majority of them can’t. The logistics of this stuff is not difficult, at least in my opinion, you’ve proven that. I love the solutions you’ve been bringing to the table. UGH, It frustrates me to sorrow. Sorry If I’m being a downer…
        On a more positive note, I just hope you and your boy FINALLY get in that door Monday.

      4. The Paltry Sum

        I have signed the lease, got all the insurance fixed, had the electric and the internet turned on..There is no reason why it should go wrong…except things go wrong.
        There are so many empty hotels, people need homes before they need hotel rooms to travel, especially in these corona days. This is such a good option. I have watched people in here get sober, get healthcare, put on some needed weight, and look healthier. They are able to thrive and rejoin society because they have been given support and a chance. I needed the support in order to come in from the cold. Winter after winter outside takes a toll. Moving around takes a toll. I desperately need healthcare for old injuries. Put people in these repurposed old hotels, and give them a tiny bit of a chance, and watch money be saved. I swear it is more expensive to keep people on the street suffering. Nah, you aren’t being a downer at all. It is just how it is. Are you city or rural?

      5. Christopher

        Yeah there should be no reason AT ALL, but I can understand in my own way, because I have the same kind of luck too. I would be feeling the same way if I were in your shoes too right now.
        You are making sense. Total sense.
        I’m rural.
        I live in a small town, It’s pretty rough down here. People’s hope is just so down and out around here, understandably so. There is hardly, any type of support systems around here. But I know of a couple that’s at a least decent, better than nothing kind of option, as far as I’m aware of at least.
        Things around here where I’m at just seem to get sabotaged one way or another, somehow. It’s insane. Our area is so affected by the Opioid crisis too, It’s so rough.

      6. Christopher

        Yep! you are correct. My roots are pretty tied here for now, at least for the foreseeable future. I’ve left a couple of times, and then came back. Which came about because of some unfortunate circumstances, which didn’t make me happy at the time. But I can see now in hindsight, it was meant to be. Hopefully once I get my own shit straight again, If I’m still meant to be here, then I can try to do more, at least something.
        People around here just like where you’re at, need compassion. That’s all they need. Of course, they need logistical things, but I’m talking about the core root, which brings about those things is compassion. They just need for somebody to tell them that they love them every now and then. People just need some damn empathy. And addiction around here where I’m at needs to get destigmatized Quick and fast. Addicts aren’t scum, dehumanization is a cancer, It’s killing addicts. The bodies normal natural process runs off an addiction system, it’s natural to get addicted to things. That’s how our bodies are designed to function. If people need help then there should be no shame, PERIOD. I won’t tolerate it. By oh boy, here I go, with a mini rant Haha.

      7. The Paltry Sum

        You recovered from addiction, Chris? You know I agree with you. People don’t care to destigmatize. Can you imagine how many lives would be saved if your area employed the Canadian system of free dilaudid to addicts, that is pharm grade, with safe injection clinics for those who want them? So many lives saved, and people could stabilize, but of course it wouldn’t punish…so…

      8. Christopher

        Nope unfortunately not, I’m almost there. I’m pretty much coming up on the “finish line” of it. And to be upfront. It’s not anything opioid related, or heroin, etc. It’s something else. I’m only saying that because I don’t want to act like I’ve got cred when it comes to those addictions specifically. The only reason I can understand at least a little, is because I’m an addict to “something else” myself, (Which I’m planning on a slow disclosure about it publicly on my blog eventually) and in that process I’ve learned ALOT about addiction of course, by experiencing it, which led me to becoming obsessed with wanting to learn more about our brains, and why they get addicted and etc. And also because those closest to me have suffered from those addictions, specifically opioids, and other things.
        Yeah I remember learning about that a little bit once forever ago. You’re right, I can’t even imagine. It would probably blow my mind. That’s what great about something like that. It will get people on the right path to what you just said, STABLIZATION. That’s the key. You and I both know, that without a safe and shame free environment that addicts need to get back on their feet, we are just going to continue to see more addiction and more addicts, and more deaths. Once you’re at the point of addiction, there is no return in the short term. They can’t just “quit” immediately anymore. But they can in the long term, in a safe and shame free environment. It can be done this way, I know it. And you’re going to stop a ton of painful and life-threatening relapses in the process. To me it’s as simple as, if a person wants help, then give them every bit of the tools that they may need. Safe injection clinics to me, is a great tool. Let them decide, while you help guide, and hell while we’re at it, tell em they are awesome, and we’re glad that they are still around. Give em a hug, whatever. But exactly Detroit. Punishment is the favorable opinion and option for most. It gives you a false sense of superiority over somebody else. And that right there, IS THE REAL ADDICTION. I got high off that of that shit for years. It really is one hell of a drug to think you’re better than the drug-addict ironically. And of course money is involved, like everything else in life. Oh! money, money money, worthless money…

      9. The Paltry Sum

        We all like to feel like we are special. If we push people away, labelling them as inferior, it makes us feel better about ourselves. It provides a sense of safety that we are not going to fall down there ourselves, right? Free safe drugs, safe injection clinics, get people away from fent-tainted drugs, Chris, and we can actually save some lives. The Canadians have it so right.
        Im sorry to hear you are struggling. If you need to talk, please PM me. Im happy being California sober. Just weed and I can just about manage.
        People need to hear they are doing great, that they are cared about. One guy here got clean, and got a huge round of applause at a community meeting, it was beautiful. Made me tear up.
        Night, Chris. Stay safe out there, ok!

      10. Christopher

        Yes you’re so right!
        And I just want to say I’m really touched by what you said. Thank you Detroit. That’s so sweet it makes want to cry. Thank you for caring, you have a beautiful heart.
        It warms my heart to hear you are sober. That’s so great. Weed helps and could help SO MANY PEOPLE. At least some kind of progress is finally starting to be made on that, especially the last few years.
        Yeah I probably would’ve teared up if I was there too. It’s truly a beautiful thing to watch somebody win the battle against themselves. I just want to see everybody win and be loved. You’ve touched my heart, Ms. Detroit. Thank you so much!

      11. The Paltry Sum

        Weed is like the barrier that stands between me and destruction. I know I would die if I started on that counterfeit pill and street smack thing. It is just time for anyone in that game.
        Whatever your problem is, Christopher, you can get past it, you are clearly a strong good-hearted man. I will have more time after I move to look at other blogs and look forwards to seeing what you have to say! Be brave!

      12. Christopher

        I will Detroit! Thank you for you’re encouragement. You’re very strong and wise, it means a lot to hear that coming from you. I hope you have a great day and that nothing goes wrong for you and the boy tomorrow.

      13. The Paltry Sum

        …lol…It is my goal in life to have money. Lots of money, enough money that I never ever have to worry about being homeless again, and can buy that real nice dino kale from the rainbow grocery store…

      14. Christopher

        Yes totally! I agree! To clarify I’m speaking of in a more metaphorical sense, if you get my drift.

      15. The Paltry Sum

        Im so sorry to hear your family has been affected by opioid addiction. If people had access to clean pharmaceutical opioids it would be so much safer. Obviously junkies are junkies, but it reduces the risk. If I had been using street ‘heroin’ now which is now basically just fent and fent analogues, I would have been dead a hundred times over. Addicts deserve a chance at life, some of these kids have barely even started.

      16. Christopher

        Thank you Detroit. I know you definitely understand what it’s like. And yes I’m right with you there. The more people we can get off the street stuff, the better. It is a sad reality indeed. Things and attitudes have got to start changing. Otherwise we are just going to stay in this cycle. And eventually it’s going to reach the nightmare scenario, where it’s going to get so bad there will be an inevitable societal collapse.

      17. The Paltry Sum

        That is absolutely right on, little brother! By helping those on the bottom of society, we are ensuring society continues. We cannot carry on in this polarized us and them mentality.

      18. The Paltry Sum

        It is hot weather-wise today. 85 degrees. People are acting up…its also hot hot out there…Im vaguely intimidated..lol! Actually kinda glad I am staying in the loin…I would miss my kudos up on Russian Hill!

      19. Christopher

        You know, I’ve always dreamed about going out to the west coast. I will admit, I LOVE THE HEAT, but damn…I hate the humidity out here where I’m at, It’s insane! Haha.

  1. Time Traveler of Life

    Until we stop thinking of poor people as “those people” and start thinking of them a “people” the homeless problem will never be solved. We all need a little help in our lives at one time or another. People have short memories. Too short! They forget that they needed help and someone helped them and when they tell the story it goes something like this: I pulled myself up by my bootstraps!

    1. The Paltry Sum

      Always! Ain’t that right! Sometimes we need some help to get out of the holes that life creates. I think one of the worst things I heard from staff, was at a community meeting we were told that if we don’t like the rules of the shelter, of which there are many petty ones, there was a tent outside in the alleyway for us and our children. It was despicable. People need to be allowed to voice concerns about how they are treated.

  2. Andrea Draper

    Lucky you. You got a room. I have no child so I didn’t. Never mind that I have 2 autoimmune diseases, am on SSI & am 52 years old…it’s like turning a roulette wheel- I realize you aren’t at fault- it’s the system, I get it, just tryna make a point to all the folks out there in internet-land who think we SF unsheltered all got rooms. We didn’t. Not by a long shot.
    The super rich don’t want to house the super poor. That & there’s half of the USA that works for under $20 an hour & that is so the richest 1% at the other end can buy stuff like private islands so they & Prince Andrew can freely rape 16 year olds they flew there on their jet plane. This has to stop if we are to escape devolving into chaos (see Where do we go from here: Chaos or Community? By Martin Luther King Jr)
    No. Lowest paid work needs to pay substantially more. We can’t just keep carving up the rental market into “affordable” “market rate” “public housing” we must choose if we want capitalism or what here. If we make the minimum wage $30/hour we can do away with all “affordable” housing not for retirees or other fixed income folks (SSI/Other low paying trust). As many people as possible in our society must be allowed the right to freely take part in the rental market, not just the “affordable” slice of it. If one wishes to move one should have the freedom to shop the mainstream broad market; not be railroaded into only 4% of the units on the market cuz those 4% are the “affordable rate” units. Everyone deserves the whole steak- not a mere slice. If they were paid properly to begin with, we never would’ve had a stratified real estate sector with such categories as “affordable”. We need unity. We need way more people choosing to spend more money. That’s what USA is about: not shopping in separate extremely limited rental markets. I thought we frowned on segregation here, economic or racial- both feed the same evil.
    Which brings me to this: the reason for Buchanan Hotel deal did not go through with the city buying it is because once things reopened around that hotel like the little Mall in Japantown and other stuff like Benihana, those businesses depend on those hotels filling with cash-rich guests here for other events like Salesforce and New Year’s Eve and their Dad’s retirement party. The people who normally stay in that hotel have way way way way more disposable income than those in the homeless community. That is the sole reason. It has nothing to do with any other behaviors of the homeless people. It has only to do with the businesses that surround that hotel within a few blocks walking distance, you get it. It’s about those businesses being able to turn a dollar so they can survive. They need as much help as they can get now that there has been almost two years of pandemic. It’s not even normal times that they are asking those businesses to take a hit. However many rooms in that hotel multiply that times how many tourists who make $180,000 per year and only stay there for four nights does each homeless person displace? We are talking about people who will eat three meals a day at restaurants in the area. Not just one week out of the year or two weeks; but every week every day year in year out. That is a tough act to follow.
    The homeless people have been used by the hotel and sort of vice-versa although I don’t know if we really even feel that way; like we really got it over on someone. I did not get a room I just want to reiterate that I am including myself in the group because I have been homeless for 13 years here in San Francisco. But yeah just like always the homeless people got used and someone else benefited more than they did. I hate to hear myself say it, but as far back as I know in history that is how it goes.
    Maybe we change it, but in the meanwhile, I’m trying to figure out a better way of Sheltering myself than to rely on someone who is using me and using all those like me.

    1. The Paltry Sum: Detroit Richards

      Andrea, it means a lot to me that would would take the time to read my blog and write me a long and thoughtful note. Thank you. I mostly agree with you, with a few reservations. Some people play the games they need to play with the shelters and the system better than others, and then they ‘win’ at that game. I had to bit my lip so many times and just get on with things in the way that was demanded from me and my kid because I really needed to get in a subsidized place. My health was really suffering and I am the only person he has left, and fuck it, my friend, I don’t want to die.
      How are you doing currently, Andrea? Can I help hook you up with some people at the coalition against homelessness, Carlos at the Coalition is a really good guy and often has good ideas for resources. If I can help please let me know. I want you to know that of course I really feel terrible about being housed and other people are still out there. I was out there for 5 years the last stint and have not been securely housed since I was 17. I am not young any more. I can relate, but I am not you and of course don’t know your suffering. I’ve lost quite a few people this year. My oldest friend drinks and couldn’t go into a shelter. I lost them a couple of months back. Sending you solidarity. Sorry I can’t help more, but am happy to provide space for you on my blog if you ever want to do an interview. Kind regards, D.

Leave a Reply