City falling short on plan to house homeless youth, commission says

San Francisco continues to fall short of a 2015 goal to build hundreds of supportive housing units for transitional age youth and has yet to deliver on a more recent promise to open a Navigation Center for young residents, the Youth Commission highlighted last week.

The commission also called for mandatory training of police officers to improve interactions with youth.

The 17-member voter-mandated body, which dates back to 1996, is charged with advising the Board of Supervisors and mayor on spending priorities.

The commission outlined its spending priorities last week to the Board of Supervisors Budget and Finance Committee. It noted they were announcing them earlier than usual to have more impact than in previous years.

The commission is calling for funding to close a gap in The City’s failed promise to build 400 units of permanent supportive housing for youth exiting homelessness by 2015. Four years past the goal, only 188 units have been completed while 25 are under construction and 67 are in pre-construction, according to the commission.

The commission said that there are an estimated 1,300 transitional age youth homeless in San Francisco.

Supervisor Rafael Mandelman noted that the commission was “calling out The City on some failures around TAY housing” and that he would work to fund the housing. He noted that the Coalition on Homelessness had asked the board to allocate funding from the recent $185 million “windfall” from returned property tax revenue from the state but “we were not able to come up with the funds.”

The commission also highlighted that while The City had allocated funding last fiscal year for a Navigation Center for TAY that still hasn’t opened.

Supervisor Hillary Ronen recently called attention to the lack of the TAY Navigation Center in a public hearing earlier in this month. In response, Jeff Kositsky, director of the San Francisco Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing, had said, “We are very close to having a site.” The idea of opening a TAY Navigation Center dates back to 2016.

“The TAY Navigation Center remains a promise that has not been kept,” Mandelman said. “We are hoping that it will soon be kept.”

In addition to the concerns around housing and shelter, the commission also highlighted the need for mandatory training of Police Officers on how better to interact with youth. Just 25 officers were given this training last fiscal year in a “sporadic” way, but the commission wants to see all officers trained on youth cognitive development and interactions with youth in partnership with Frisco CopWatch and Strategies for Youth.

“We believe that investing in training officers how to interact effectively with children and youth supports the development of positive relationships between youth and officers and strengthens communities,” Strategies for Youth’s website reads.

Supervisor Catherine Stefani expressed interest in the youth training. “That sounds really important and promising,” she said.

“There was already a program implemented in the last year but it only trained 25 officers out of the 2000-plus officers that are in the SPFD,” said Youth Commissioner Nora Hylton. She said that they want an expansion of that program “that can be taught to all SFPD officers.”

Other items the commission is focused on is preparing on bringing before voters in 2020 a measure to allow those aged 16 and over to vote.

City departments must submit two-year budget proposals to the Mayor’s Office by Feb. 21. Mayor London Breed must submit a city budget proposal by June 1 to the Board of Supervisors for review and adoption.

Joshua Sabatini
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Joshua Sabatini

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