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San Francisco experiments with temporary tiny homes to address homelessness

A city-sanctioned “safe sleeping village” for the homeless at 33 Gough St. during the pandemic has now transformed into a temporary small community of 70 private prefabricated rooms.

City and community leaders held a ribbon cutting Tuesday for the completion on the first 30 rooms, which were first offered to those living in tents at the safe sleeping village.

The size of each room is approximately 64 square feet and the room includes a bed, desk and chair, a portable heater and a door with a lock. The site has shared bathrooms and showers and will eventually have two dining buildings and a computer lab.

DignityMoves, a nonprofit that was founded at the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic to address the unsheltered, raised approximately $2 million from the private sector, foundations and other community organizations to construct the 70 rooms and added amenities.

Each room costs about $15,000 to assemble, but the with included amenities, each room totals to about $30,000.

Elizabeth Flunk, founder and executive chairman of DignityMoves, said at the press conference:

This is hopefully a new tool in the city’s vast toolkit for addressing unsheltered homelessness.”

Flunk said while permanent housing is critical for getting unsheltered off the street, she added that people needed a place they could “come now” to figure out solutions to their housing situation:

They need an interim stop where they can feel safe and can be sheltered while they’re figuring out their permanent exit out of homelessness.”

The program is a pilot project, as the land for the site belongs to a private developer who plans to construct permanent housing. The City’s Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing is leasing the site until March 2023.

Shireen McSpadden, the department’s director, said:

This is a real opportunity for us to study something we haven’t tried before and to understand how we can support to provide dignity and privacy for people, but also provide services for them so that they can move on out of here and let somebody else move in.”

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