Mayor: building supportive housing key to ending homelessness 

click to enlarge Mayor Ed Lee said Thursday that 19,000 chronically homeless people have been moved off the streets in the past 10 years, adding that one of his next goals is to end homelessness among veterans in The City. - JESSICA CHRISTIAN/S.F. EXAMINER FILE PHOTO
  • Jessica Christian/S.F. Examiner File photo
  • Mayor Ed Lee said Thursday that 19,000 chronically homeless people have been moved off the streets in the past 10 years, adding that one of his next goals is to end homelessness among veterans in The City.

San Francisco is working to build its way out of the homelessness problem.

A total of 19,000 "chronically homeless people" have been moved off of the streets and into housing or sent back home to their families over the past decade, Mayor Ed Lee announced Thursday.

And of those longtime homeless, 11,362 people are living in The City in supportive housing, apartment complexes with mental health and other service workers on site.

Building more of that housing is the key to ending chronic homelessness, Lee and other city leaders said Thursday, which marked the 10-year anniversary of The City's first 10-year plan to get people living on the streets indoors.

According to The City's biennial homeless count last year, there were 6,436 homeless people, a number that's held relatively steady since 2005.

Not all of these are "chronically homeless." To qualify as chronically homeless, a person must be on the streets for at least a year, or be a disabled person who has become homeless four times over a period of three years.

There are now just under 2,000 chronically homeless people in San Francisco, down from 4,039 in 2009, according to a report chronicling the 10-year plan's achievements.

Many of these individuals are now living in the 2,700 units of supportive housing built since 2004, said Lee, who added that another 400 units of supportive housing are under construction or planned in Mission Bay and near Octavia Boulevard.

San Francisco's housing crunch is affecting people in all social classes and income levels. Lee has repeatedly said building or fixing up 30,000 new units of housing by 2020 -- 10,000 of which are supposed to be below market rate -- is a top priority.

Lee has also renewed a call to reform the Ellis Act, which allows landlords to get out of the rental business, after efforts in Sacramento were blocked this year.

"We'll get it done," he said.

And the mayor set a bolder goal Thursday: chronic homelessness will be "ended" by next year for The City's military veterans, he said.

To score a spot in one of The City's new units of supportive housing, homeless people are given priority based on need through their respective social services providers, officials said.

Homeless people -- especially homeless families with children -- will also get priority to receive one of the several hundred units of currently vacant public housing.

The Housing Authority, whose federal funding continues to be slashed, will receive $2 million from the just-approved city budget to fix up units in its Potrero and Sunnydale properties, said Barbara Smith, the agency's executive director.

The City spends about $165 million a year on homeless services, but likely spends far more than that on ambulance rides, hospital services and detox services. For the cost of four days in detox, The City can put someone in supportive housing for one month, the report claims.

About The Author

Chris Roberts

Chris Roberts

Bio:
Chris Roberts has worked as a reporter in San Francisco since 2008, with an emphasis on city governance and politics, The City’s neighborhoods, race, poverty and the drug war.
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Wednesday, Dec 17, 2014

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