No More Children Living in the Streets

Please stand up for San Francisco values by emailing the Board of Supervisors asking them to support the Safer Families plan!

There are over 400 homeless families on the waiting list for shelter in San Francisco, and after nine months of organizing by FIABA leaders, the City is finally taking steps to implement our plan to end child homelessness by (1) expanding the cost-effective hotel voucher program to guarantee same-day access for all families, and (2) increasing transparency and expediting the movement of families from shelters into available permanent housing.

In response to FIABA leaders’ organizing, Supervisor Ahsha Safai introdused a resolution urging the City to implement the FIABA leaders’ solutions–and then Mayor London Breed announced the Safer Families plan as part of her budget proposal for 2024-25. 

The Safer Families plan adds $17 million to the family homelessness budget, including adding 80 new hotel vouchers (bringing the total to 115) and 165 new rent subsides to expedite the movement of families out of shleters. Now we need to make sure the plan is included in the budget approved by the Board of Supervisors!

Please email your public comments in support of the Safer Families plan to with a copy to

The original resolution written by Supervisor Ahsha Safai was co-sponsored by Supervisors Dean Preston, Hillary Ronen, Shamann Walton, Connie Chan, and Aaron Peskin. We are grateful to all of these leaders for standing in solidarity with immigrant families and representing San Francisco values!


Testimonies from the March 7 community meeting

On Thursday, March 7, 2024, over 350 San Franciscans gathered at St. Anthony’s Catholic Church in the Mission to demand action from City officials to help homeless immigrant families. On Tuesday, March 12, Supervisor Ahsha Safai responded to this display of people power by introducing a resolution at the Board of Supervisors supporting the Faith in Action Bay Area leaders’ demands. 

Cities across the country are experiencing a surge in both immigration and homelessness as families fleeing violence and persecution come to the U.S. to seek asylum. In San Francisco, a city that has had designated Sanctuary City status since 1989, the local government has been absent in its response, leaving small children to sleep in vehicles, on MUNI, and under gas station roofs.

“People told us that San Francisco was a Sanctuary City where they protected immigrants, and that was one of the main reasons we wanted to come here,” said Karla Margarita Solito, who arrived from El Salvador last summer with her four children after gangs threatened multiple times to kill her husband. “But the reality has been different.”

Jenifer Carcamo, another asylum seeker from Honduras, explained, “I thought we were going to have stable, safe housing, but at the City Access Points, they just tell us that they are full, the shelters are full, there is no space. Even with my one-month-old baby, there is no response.”

The audience included teachers, social workers, doctors, clergy, and many concerned San Francisco residents. “I moved here in 1982 with the man who is now my husband,” said Jim Lichti, who attends First Mennonite Church of San Francisco. “This city has been a welcoming city, a place where so many of us have found sanctuary. It breaks my heart to see these children having to sleep in the street. That’s not what San Francisco stands for.”

Although Homelessness Director McSpadden did not show up to the community meeting, Supervisors Ahsha Safai and Dean Preston, along with Supervisor Hillary Ronen (who was unable to attend), committed to supporting the families’ demands.

The immigrant parents wanted City leaders to know that the lack of effective response is having a serious impact on their children. “Psychologically, they are not doing well,” said Sadie Bermudez of her 10- and 12-year-old daughters. “They are not doing well academically. They are falling asleep in school.”

Raul Gutierrez, a UCSF pediatrician, explained that this is not surprising: “The science and the research and the literature around kids who are homeless is very clear. They experience health problems up to three times more often than other children.” But Dr. Gutierrez said he still has hope for his Sanctuary City: “San Francisco has the resources to be able to do the right thing.”

Over the past seven months, the Recently Arrived Families Committee of Faith in Action Bay Area, comprised of directly impacted asylum seekers who are currently living in shelters or on the street, have met multiple times with high-level staff from the Department of Homelessness and six City Supervisors.

On January 17, the immigrant families sent a letter to Shireen McSpadden, Director of the Department of Homelessness, urgently requesting a meeting and proposing concrete solutions. Director McSpadden responded by re-stating the Department’s lack of resources and ignoring the families’ proposals and request for a meeting.

The families’ demands are simple and cost-effective:

  1. We call on the Department of Homelessness to guarantee shelter space or a hotel voucher the same day that any family with children arrives at a City Access Point.
  2. We call on the Department of Homelessness to expedite the movement of families from shelters into more permanent housing, with an online public dashboard where families and the public can monitor the waiting list and movement of families into permanent housing
Introduction of the resolution on City Hall steps March 12

The two-part plan was developed by the immigrant families themselves in response to the City government’s lack of action and is rooted in their lived experience and their research with the City. Here is a bit more background:

Guaranteeing same-day access to shelter space or a hotel voucher is the only feasible and humane way to ensure there are no more children living in the streets of San Francisco. Currently the City’s so-called “Access Points” are a cruel farce. Recently arrived immigrant families are directed there with the expectation of receiving shelter. What happens instead is they are told, “You haven’t been homeless long enough to qualify for assistance,” and they’re sent away with a small packet of MUNI tokens. Families are put on a waiting list but there is no transparency about where they are on the list, other than the warning that they should expect to wait months.

Hotel vouchers are a cost-effective way to keep children off the streets. In fact, they are cheaper than the emergency shelters run by the City: Hotels cost  ~$100 per night, compared to ~$180 per family per night in a congregate shelter. Because of the City government’s inability to provide shelter, the recently arrived families themselves organized a private fundraising effort in November and have been providing hotel rooms to some desperate families, so we know it’s not that expensive and not that difficult. (Thanks so much to those of you who attended the event or contributed to the Belong Emergency Fund and made this possible!)

A major reason the family shelters are full is due to the slow progress in moving families out of the shelters and into more permanent housing. Many members of the Recently Arrived Families Committee have been staying in congregate shelters for 4 months or more, and their children are suffering the consequences. These shelters are designed to be temporary emergency housing, but families are languishing there for months on end.

Valuable public resources already funded by taxpayers are not being distributed to families in need. For example, there is a fantastic program in the Department of Homelessness called the Family Flex Subsidy program, where a family can move out of shelter and into a private apartment; the family pays 30% of their income in rent and the subsidy pays the rest. This program is already funded through revenue from 2018’s Prop C, yet out of 165 subsidies available, only about 50 are currently being used. Asylum seeking families are desperate to work and build toward financial stability, and this program is exactly the kind of support they need—but instead they are stuck on the street or in congregate shelters.

We know that the voters of San Francisco want immigrant families, and all homeless families, to receive shelter and basic supports. In recent years, voters have approved multiple ballot measures to increase funding for housing assistance and affordable housing. The most recent data shows that there are 61,473 vacant housing units in San Francisco. The City government has resources (the annual budget of the Department of Homelessness this year is $713 million!), and it is a failure of leadership if those resources cannot be used to ensure that no children are sleeping on the streets of San Francisco.

Special thanks to all of the organizations that were represented at the March 7 community meeting and helped make it a success!

  • All Hallows Catholic Church
  • Buena Vista Horace Mann School
  • Calvary Presbyterian Church
  • Cathedral of St. Mary of the Assumption
  • Church of the Epiphany
  • Congregation Sherith Israel
  • Episcopal Church of St. Mary the Virgin
  • First Mennonite Church of SF
  • Francisco Middle School
  • Galileo High School
  • Grace Fellowship Community Church
  • Innovate Public Schools
  • Interfaith Movement for Human Integrity
  • John Muir Elementary School
  • Latino Task Force
  • Mission Dolores Church
  • Mission Education Center
  • Mission Graduates
  • Mission High School
  • Mission Language and Vocational School
  • Or Shalom Jewish Community
  • Plaza 16
  • Sanchez Elementary School
  • SF Friends Meeting
  • St. Agnes Catholic Church
  • St. Aidan’s Episcopal Church
  • St. Anthony’s Catholic Church
  • St. Charles Catholic Church
  • St. Dominic’s Catholic Church
  • St. Gregory’s Episcopal Church
  • St. James Episcopal Church
  • St. Paul of the Shipwreck Catholic Church
  • St. Peter’s Catholic Church
  • Sha’ar Zahav
  • The Kitchen SF
  • Thurgood Marshall High School
  • UCSF Center for Excellence for Immigrant Child Health and Wellbeing
  • United Educators of San Francisco