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Breed signs $11B city budget and vows residents will ‘feel the difference’

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San Francisco Mayor London Breed signed her first budget Wednesday, vowing residents would “feel the difference.” (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

Signing her first city budget into law Wednesday, Mayor London Breed called on department heads to “make every dollar count” and vowed that residents will “feel the difference” in the conditions on the streets.

Breed signed the two-year city budget, which is $11 billion in each fiscal year, at the South of Market Bishop Swing Community House, a permanent supportive housing site, emphasizing increased funding for street cleaning, police officers and housing.

“My top priority as mayor is homelessness. We need to get people out of tents, off the streets and into the care and shelters that they need,” Breed said at the gathering of department heads and elected officials.

Before the signing, she had meet with formerly homeless residents. “It is clear that our problem with homelessness is not intractable,” Breed said. “Budget investments like the ones that we are making today change people’s lives.”

She emphasized two points in her speech, accountability and results.

“The work that we do every single day can be the difference between someone’s life and whether or not they make it,” Breed said, adding, “Let’s make every dollar count.”

And she vowed residents will notice change. She said that both herself and residents will “feel the difference” when it comes to the increased spending around homelessness, street cleanliness and affordable housing.

Breed highlighted several spending increases in the budget, like “$60 million in new funding for critical homeless services for programs,” including $4 million for a Navigation Center for transitional-aged youth, those aged between 18 and 24.

Details on some of the promised initiatives are still being worked out.

Jeff Kositsky, director of the San Francisco Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing, said there is not yet a location or timeline established for opening the transitional aged youth Navigation Center.

“One of the things we’d love to be able to do is to open up a pop-up temporarily, maybe at a church or some facility that we can just use while we are trying to find a location,” Kositsky told the San Francisco Examiner. “Finding a site for anything in the city is not easy.”

There are 380 new permanent supportive housing units to open up in the next two years and 50 master-leased supportive housing units to help house the formerly homeless. There is also increased spending to draw down the ratio of case managers per formerly homeless resident to ensure they get the necessary care they need to succeed. He said that the ratio can be as high as one case manager for every 50 residents, but he would like to see a ratio of one case manager for every 20 residents, which would take increased spending in the coming years.

Kositsky, who Breed often texts or calls to ask him to help with homeless persons she may know, said the mayor’s message was clear.

“Message heard loud and clear,” Kositsky said. “We want to be as effective as we can in moving this money out the door as quickly as possible.”

He said residents should notice a difference. “More shelter beds mean more people off the street. More housing means more people off the streets and then it creates flow in the shelter system,” he said.

The Board of Supervisors unanimously approved the budget proposal Tuesday.

Only time will tell if Breed can deliver on her promise: “I am excited to be signing this budget and I am going to be even more excited when I see this money put to work on the streets of San Francisco so that each and every San Franciscan can feel the difference.”

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