Safe Organized Space: The St Francis Challenge

Burners Without Borders SF supports SOS Villages proposal during COVID-19—and you can too!



Burners without Borders SF/Bay Area Working Group partners with Saint Francis Homelessness Challenge on a proposal to immediately activate SOS Villages on 2 public-owned sites 

San Francisco, CA —Saint Francis Homelessness Challenge (SFHC) is thrilled to announce that Burners without Borders SF/Bay Area Working Group is throwing their support behind SFHC’s COVID-19 related-proposals to the City for “SOS Villages”—Safe organized spaces of belonging, shared agreements, and stewardship to end the crisis conditions of street homelessness.


On April 10 2020, Burning Man Project leadership officially announced their decision to transition the annual desert festival to a virtual global experience in light of the global pandemic. Members of the SF/Bay Area Working Group for Burners without Borders (BWB SF)— a grassroots, community leadership program whose goal is to unlock the creativity of local communities to solve problems that bring about meaningful change—are already organizing both locally and internationally in response to COVID-19. In addition to supporting SFHC’s specific proposal to activate SOS Villages in San Francisco—with a readiness to participate in work days and organizing for SOS Villages if the green light is given by the City—current efforts from Bay Area Burners include resource deliveries and mask making.


SFHC and BWB SF seek to partner with the Mayor, District Supervisors, and a local network of Burners, SFHC Stewards (including residents currently/formerly experiencing homelessness), community-based organizations, community leaders, and local businesses to immediately activate two or more underutilized publicly-owned sites with SOS Villages.


Two weeks ago on April 6, 2020, SFHC sent in a proposal to Mayor Breed and the Board of Supervisors, “offer[ing] up our organization’s resources and expertise to serve our most vulnerable residents during this crisis upon a crisis.” SFHC’s proposal identified two public-owned sites that are uniquely viable for SOS Villages, since they have already been designated for emergency shelter response.

  • 180 Jones, City-owned pre-development site in the Tenderloin: Estimated ability to provide safe and organized lodging to between 15-30 residents with tents/cabins.
  •  Iowa and 23rd, “Gear Park”, CalTrans land Estimated ability to provide safe and organized lodging to between 25-100 residents with tents/cabins.

SFHC Founder/Director Amy Farah Weiss commented on the partnership with BWB SF:“ With their passion for social justice, ecological innovation and communal off-grid living,  Burners Without Borders are ideal local partners to join SFHC in the planning, building, and operations of SOS Villages for neighbors in need of a place to belong ASAP”.


Sara Nicole Glass, a co-leader of the BWB SF Working Group, states: “Nobody wants to go back to that desert to heal and celebrate more than the burners right now, but we know in our hearts cancelling is the right thing to do. WE have to help the world HEAL, not just ourselves, but every person. That’s what Radical Inclusion, Civic Responsibility and Gifting is all about, after all.” “It would be wonderful to see this proposal move forward and provide local Burners with the chance to deepen our stewardship relationship to Gear Park.  Our Community Events team has done annual clean up days at that site in the past and many Burners have strong connections to the Dogpatch neighborhood”, said Christopher Breedlove—Head of Burners Without Borders at the SF-based Burning Man Project.


Since 2015, San Francisco-based SFHC, a fiscally sponsored project of Intersection for the Arts, has been developing the SOS Policy and Operations Toolkit to provide Bay Area and California municipalities with a code-complaint and community-integrated emergency shelter response framework. In addition to the COVID-19 related proposals, SFHC provided direct service support of sanitation, organizing, and advocacy for 3 large Mission Bay encampments from 2016-2018, piloted an SOS Village from 2017-2018 at the Impact Hub SF Mission location, and submitted a proposal for an SOS Village at 180 Jones in 2019 via the Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development.

For more information, please visit:

COVID-19 SOS Village Proposal—4.06.2020—SFHC

COVID-19 SOS Village Proposal—Attachments—4.06.2020—SFHC

100 SOS Interviews—9/2019-3/2020—SFHC