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SF begins assessing homeless adults for new coordinated system for housing

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City officials this week began an intensive assessment process to determine which homeless people will get priority for limited supportive housing openings. (Mike Koozmin/S.F. Examiner)

San Francisco on Monday began a three month “assessment blitz” of chronically homeless adults to prioritize them for placement into the limited supply of permanent supportive housing, according to the Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing.

The assessment will occur at various locations and through mobile outreach until Oct. 31. The goal is to assess 2,000 homeless residents within three months for this new Adult Coordinated Entry and Online Navigation Entry System.

Beginning in November, the department will start placing homeless into housing using only this new system.

Currently, there are multiple ways for people to secure supportive housing, such as through shelter workers identifying their most vulnerable clients. The new system is supposed to make the process more transparent and equitable as well as target those who are most in need.

The effort will entail “asking every adult experiencing homelessness 17 scored questions,” Megan Owens, of the Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing, told the Local Homeless Coordinating Board Monday. “These are questions like, are you living with mental illness, substance abuse or HIV/AIDS? How frequently have you used emergency crisis services in the past year? All of these questions are scored.”

Those assessed will know if they have a “priority status” for housing or not.

“The folks who are very highest on the priority scores will be the folks who will be placing into HSH permanent supportive housing,” Owens said.

However Owens said there would be a “significant number” of chronically homeless people who will not receive priority status, “not because they are not eligible for permanent supportive housing or because they would not benefit from it” but because demand outstrips supply.

“I think it is really troubling that we don’t have enough permanent supportive housing for everyone — that’s the big solution,” she said. “It is also very troubling to have a lot of a chronically homeless people running around chasing resources they are never going to get.”

She added that “this will be a difficult conversation” to have with those non-priority homeless residents to let them know they won’t get supportive housing, although they could still potentially avail themselves of “problem solving” services.

“We look forward to launching our problem solving service, putting much more training out in the community … and also putting out resources to be more flexible with things like security deposits, gas and grocery gift cards to help host families feel more comfortable taking people in, on or before Jan. 1,” she said.

The Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing placed 1,130 homeless persons into supportive housing in the last fiscal year, which ended June 30, while also providing rent subsidies to 183 people and helping 879 out of homelessness through “problem solving,” largely by sending them on the bus to stay with friends and family outside of San Francisco.

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