The City of San Francisco currently spends over $30 million a year on a "move along" strategy to shuffle thousands of unhoused residents from block to block with unacceptable public health and safety outcomes. All San Franciscans, housed and unhoused, deserve better. Together we can take action to transition thousands of unhoused residents out of crisis and into community-integrated Safe Organized Spaces with reasonable agreements and responsibilities on their pathway to healing and housing.

SAFE ORGANIZED SPACES are community-integrated transitional villages with mobile "tiny homes" administered by nonprofits on underutilized private or public land with license agreements, insurance, essential amenities, and a community-integration team. SOS Transitional Villages provide crucial resources like secure sleep and storage, safety protocols, sanitation, garbage pickup, community benefit agreements, and on-site support services that work in partnership with residents-in-transition, neighbors, and City services. 

"I support Safe Organized Spaces/SOS Transitional Villages to end crisis conditions for San Francisco’s unsheltered residents."


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SFHC has been hard at work for three years organizing with encampment residents, City services, impacted neighborhoods, and community leaders to develop and pilot humane and cost-effective strategies that address our multi-faceted encampment and shelter/housing shortage crisis. Help us continue building, piloting, and organizing for SOS with a tax-deductible donation of any size. 

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The Need for Safe Organized Spaces: Addressing Service Gaps with Community-Integrated Intermediate Shelter Programming


Tonight in San Francisco, and for the foreseeable future, over 1,000 people will sleep on streets and sidewalks without safe shelter, locking storage, or toilets. Tens of thousands of unsheltered/unhoused residents throughout the Bay Area are in need of safe and dignified transitional shelter and/or housing.

Over 1,000 people are currently on the 311 waitlist for shelter, and the majority of people who enter into the City’s shelter system are exited back to the street without designated shelter or housing exits when they reach a maximum stay of 30-120 days at Emergency Shelters and Navigation Centers.

The chart below (SF’s 2017 Point-in-Time Count) demonstrates the number of unsheltered residents currently living in each of San Francisco’s 11 districts.  

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Addressing the shelter service gap with Safe Organized Spaces/Transitional Villages

  • Whether it is due to a natural disaster, a lack of affordable-housing opportunities, or individual behavior/mental health challenges, SF/Bay Area is tasked with developing new standards for people who are experiencing homelessness with reasonably safe living conditions and building protocols.

  • Triage needed immediately for community-integrated spaces for stabilization and transition in the least restrictive, most autonomous environment possible

  • Current service gap requires safe organized shelter options for thousands of SF residents distributed throughout SF with certain standards for minimum services, infrastructure, and staffing requirements.

  • Different needs for different unsheltered populations means that different models with varying levels of support services and structure are needed


To respond to our current multi-pronged crisis of substandard conditions for unsheltered residents, San Francisco’s districts, communities, and neighborhoods are tasked with developing a sufficient number of community-integrated Safe Organized Spaces for the current number of unsheltered residents to stabilize, heal, and transition in the most autonomous and least restrictive environment possible with the highest quality of shelter building standards and support services possible within reason and budget.


The City is currently allocating upwards of $29 million a year via San Francisco Police Department and the Department of Public works to address, clean and/or move hundreds of unsheltered residents living in approximately 75 unsanctioned encampments.

The development of community-integrated, safe organized spaces with comprehensive support service for 1,000 currently sheltered or unsheltered homeless residents would significantly reduce the need for policing and clean-up services while supporting physical and mental health, transition, and community well-being. Current budget proposals for the development and operations of 50 “Transitional Villages” of 20 residents (or 20 Villages of 50 people) at $9 million per year - a small fraction of what is currently being spent with added structure and services to achieve better outcomes for our residents-in-transition and neighborhoods.

For instance, Seattle’s public/private partnership models for Transitional Villages/Permitted Encampments have proven to be a cost-effective alternative to encampments with support services and structure that supports both community integration and transition. In the first year of operations in 2016, Seattle’s three government-supported, non-profit operated Transitional Villages created safe organized spaces for over 750 people, 121 of whom transitioned into safe, permanent housing. The 12 month budget for Seattle’s New Interbay Transitional Village of 60 individual “Tiny Home” units and 80 Residents-in-Transition was $578,451 (including initial infrastructure set-up costs and ongoing supportive services and operating costs), compared to the $1.1 million spent in just the first 60 days to set up and operate a temporary dormitory style winter shelter for up to 150 unhoused residents at Pier 80 in the first half of 2016.


Remember, for some people, the journey back to housing means having a place to get back on their feet with access to safe sleep, secure storage, a bathroom, garbage pick-up, and systems for living in community. For some people it means having a place to stabilize while they work on getting back to their support network in another city. For some people it means recovering from the trauma of acclimating to the street, or getting support for mental health and addiction challenges, or figuring out how to live in community with reasonable agreements, or overcoming challenges to employment, or getting more intensive services, or xyz in support of transition.

There should be enough sanctioned safe organized spaces for the current # of encampment residents with license agreements and insurance that (1) Safeguards the property owner from liability (whether public or private), (2) Standardizes systems of oversight, comprehensive support and structure for participatory and democratic self-management, systems for conflict resolution and restorative justice, (3) Provides sufficient structure and support services in service to participatory resident management, community integration, and mental health/recovery needs, and (4) Creates a feedback loop and advisory counsel that includes shared leadership of residents, neighbors, and advocacy/service organizations.

Program Development

  • Transitional Villages can provide the missing intermediate step between the triage, stabilization, assessment, and case management support of Navigation Centers and City Shelters and placement in currently scarce affordable housing and supportive housing.

    • Encampment >>> Navigation Center/90-Day Shelter >>> Safe Organized Spaces/Transitional Village >>> Affordable (Supported) Housing

  • San Francisco must create specific, reasonable safety protocol, development, and operational standards for building, program management, and community integration features of Safe Organized Spaces/Transitional Villages.

Sos research and documents

Saint Francis Homelessness Challenge/Safe Organized Spaces (SOS) Transitional Villages

Since November 2015, the Saint Francis Homelessness Challenge (SFHC) has been working with a diverse set of stakeholders (including encampment residents, neighbors, local businesses, community organizations, and City Departments and service workers) to create comprehensive solutions to end San Francisco's tent encampment and shelter shortage crisis.

From July 28th 2017 through July 31 2018, SFHC partnered with the Impact Hub and neighbors at 1875 Mission to pilot San Francisco's first Safe Organized Space/Transitional Village with weekly community-integration team meeting, 1 resident-in-transition, a transitional mobile shelter, portapotty, storage, secure perimeter, transition support, community benefits, and service support for transition and mental health. 

Overview of SOS Transitional Village Pilot at Impact Hub:

License agreement for SOS Transitional Village Pilot:

Slide-deck for detailed protocol and budget of SOS Transitional Villages for up to 3,000 residents


Evaluation of Seattle's Transitional Village model (public land leased to nonprofit service provider):

City of Seattle's "Director's Rules" for transitional villages for Planning Department and Human Services:

City of Seattle's Zoning and Coding for fire and health Safety at transitional villages on city-leased land

LIHI Draft Budget for 50 person village:

LIHI's Transitional Village Management Plan

LIHI's Transitional Village Supportive Services Plan

LIHI Transitional Village Intake Service Form

Budget for Seattle's 60 unit/80 person Transitional village with 8x12 units ($213K set up costs and ~$25,000/month operating costs, or $312 per villager/month)

Evaluation of a transitional village model in Seattle (managed by the nonprofit "Low Income Housing Institute"


LIHI's 8x12x10 insulated Tiny House Material List: Home Depot

The SFHC 5x8x8 "mobile SRO" transitional sleep and storage model SFHC's Mobile SRO can be built on a trailer for materials cost of $2,500  or on 6 8" caster wheels for $1,000. Our shelter model is an innovation for ease of mobility, low cost, privacy, and security and meets NFPA standards for small RVs. (Note: The current model lacks insulation, and thus far we have not found a low-cost solution to insulation that allows us to build with basic construction skills and materials):

Sos working group campaign and documents

  • SOS Site Selection and Components V.2 (Working Draft) (link)

  • 9/21 Working Group Slides (link)

  • 10/5 Working Group Slides (link)

  • 10/17 Working Group Slides (link)

  • 10/31 Working Group Slides (link)

  • 11/14 Working Group Slides (link)