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Thursday, December 10, 2015

SF is Ready for El Niño, but is Still 1,000 Beds Short of Sheltering the Homeless

Posted By on Thu, Dec 10, 2015 at 11:28 AM

  • Robert Kouse-Baker/Flickr

Today’s forecast afternoon showers — which could herald up to 3 inches of rain in the Bay Area over the next day — will be a taste of the rainy weather expected to overtake San Francisco in the coming months, as El Niño does its dirty work in earnest. The city says it’s prepared for the deluge. 

Yesterday, Mayor Ed Lee announced that 1,100 new shelter beds will be made available, and the city has already distributed 13,000 sandbags, CBS reports. There are still a lot of unknowns, however, including how the city’s drought-ravaged (and unkempt) trees will withstand potential flooding and high winds.

“There’s going to be a lot of trees coming down,” said Anne Kronenberg of the San Francisco Department of Emergency Management, “because they don’t have the root structure that they would have had before.”

Per CBS, Department of Public Works crews have been scheduled to work around the clock and are performing regular inspections.

Yet, as SF Weekly reported in October, no amount of preparation is likely to alleviate the serious flooding that has become a grim routine on Cayuga Avenue and around 17th and Folsom streets in the Mission.

There’s also the matter of how to keep the homeless dry during the worst of the storms. As the Chronicle notes, the city will be about 1,000 beds short of accommodating the homeless, even after opening 14 new temporary shelters in neighborhoods across the city.

Jennifer Friedenbach, director of the Coalition on Homelessness, offered the Chronicle a grim prediction of how El Niño will affect people on the street: “Once it’s a serious deluge and their clothes get wet and they are not able to stay dry, they are going to be getting pretty panicky about a dry place to go.”

Those dry places will be at a premium, though, and some will face opposition from neighbors who aren’t keen to have a makeshift homeless shelter nearby.

“I’m not thrilled,” Mission resident Claudia Tirado told the Chronicle. I feel like we need to support those shelters that are permanent in order to expand. It’s not a permanent solution, and it doesn’t fund the real issue.”

The Los Angeles Times reported today that this is the wettest start to an El Niño season in the Pacific Northwest ever, which doesn't bode well for California. El Niño is still on track to be one of the strongest in history.

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Jeremy Lybarger


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