When it was proposed last April, there were plenty of people who thought it sounded like a good idea. But a few months later most agree that a homeless shelter set up inside a San Francisco public school has been an expensive waste of money. From the San Francisco Chronicle:

Only five families have used the facility at 23rd and Valencia streets in the Mission, with an average occupancy of less than two people per night, said Jeff Kositsky, director of the city’s Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing.

The facility is completely empty several nights each month, Kositsky said, although shelter workers are on-site seven nights a week and through holidays, whether anyone shows up or not…

The city has been paying the nonprofit Dolores Street Community Services $40,000 per month to manage the shelter, and if it were to be successful, would spend up to $900,000 per year to serve up to 20 families at a time with all-night staffing, food and support services to help them find permanent housing.

Yet the “well-intentioned” pilot program is “failing to meet its goals,” said Mayor London Breed, who expressed frustration at the inefficient use of funds.

The shelter has been open since November and the Chronicle says the current utilization means the city is paying $700 a night for each person who stays there. The city would have been better off getting people a room at an upscale hotel and pocketing the difference. But last April when the plan was first presented there was agreement among school officials that this was a much-needed project:

“It’s interesting in terms of out-of-the-box, innovative thinking for a problem that a school district wouldn’t typically help to solve,” said school board President Hydra Mendoza…

“We know there’s a need we’re not able to address,” [Principal Richard] Zapien said. “We’re not just going to sit back and say we can’t help.”…

“We’re in the middle of a humanitarian crisis, and we’re happy to consider any and all ideas people bring forward, and we’ll give this full consideration,” said Jeff Kositsky, director of the city’s Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing.

It was such a great idea that the school steamrolled the parents who wondered how the school, already in poor condition, would handle the additional use:

The topic, however, hadn’t been on the agenda, and some parents said they were blindsided by the idea.

“They … just ran with it without finding out what the community thinks first,” said parent Marisa Zuzga. “I have serious concerns.”…

The school needs a lot of attention, and it’s unclear what impact a homeless shelter would have on an already overwhelmed school site, said parent Johanna Lopez Miyaki.

But as it turns out there won’t be much impact because the shelter hasn’t seen much use. Maybe this is something they should have thought about before spending $40,000 a month.