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Sheehy wants to prioritize housing for those released from substance abuse, mental health programs

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Supervisor Jeff Sheehy (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

Supervisor Jeff Sheehy introduced legislation Tuesday that would require The City to prioritize housing for those released from mental health and substance abuse programs.

Sheehy said The City is spending money on these programs, and sending people who are discharged from them back out onto the streets doesn’t make sense — even if it may mean someone homeless for longer gets passed up. “What is our priority?” Sheehy said.

More than 5,000 people are discharged from the Department of Public Health’s behavioral health programs “but upon discharge, many individuals do not have a home or address
to go to, and are discharged to the streets,” the legislation says.

Sheehy said The City spends thousands of dollars and even in some cases up to hundreds of the thousands of dollars and they are only prioritized for housing if they were homeless for more than 13 years. He called this policy an “irrational aspect” of the way The City is addressing homelessness.

The legislation would require that the Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing, which oversees who receives housing, prioritize this segment of the population for housing, such as in permanent supportive housing units. This would ensure they are housed and can continue to receive the services they need without interruption by working in collaboration with the Public Health Department.

“It makes no sense to spend money to address a homeless individual’s mental health or substance abuse issues and then, once a program has been completed and the individual is stabilized, turn that person back out onto the street with nowhere to live and no access to continued support,” Sheehy said in a statement.

Jeff Kositsky, director of the Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing, said Tuesday that he hadn’t reviewed the proposal yet but looks “forward to working with the supervisor on aligning this approach with our strategic framework that calls for prioritization based on both length of homelessness and acuity.”

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