Social distancing pushes San Francisco to house homeless

Social distancing measures are finally pushing San Francisco to house its homeless -- something it's been unable to do for years.

And now -- it's looking to convert empty hotels into homeless shelters.

Even after officials issued stay-at-home orders on March 17, many tent encampments for the homeless could still be seen lining the streets.

Jackie Cismowski, who's been homeless on and off since 2012, says many didn't have anywhere to go.

(SOUNDBITE) (English) JACKIE CISMOWSKI, 28-YEAR-OLD HOMELESS WOMAN, SAYING:

"People are supposed to stay in, but I don't see how that's possible when there's a lot of us around, you know."

The city's homeless population has grown nearly 30% since 2015.

And city officials are now securing 4,500 hotel rooms for the nearly 10,000 people living on streets and in shelters.

Rachel Ball works for the homeless advocacy group St. Anthony's.

She says their shelter has had to cut capacity in order to comply with social distancing measures and supports the move to start using hotels.

(SOUNDBITE) (English) RACHEL BALL, MARKETING COMMUNICATIONS MANAGER FOR ST. ANTHONY'S, SAYING:

"Well we're in favor of it as a general principle, of using vacant space for people to live, so hotels, gyms, any public space that's not being used...if that can be utilized for housing people and giving people a place to shelter-in-place, we're in favor of that."

However, city officials have declined to release the hotels' names to avoid violating privacy laws and stigmatizing the properties.