On July 1, San Francisco took a bold step toward ending chronic homelessness with the launch of the Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing. In just a few short months since the department launched, The City has: opened a new Navigation Center and put two new ones in the pipeline; started the Encampment Resolution Team; launched the Moving On initiative to provide housing authority vouchers to homeless and formerly homeless households; redesigned the family services system, and brought 250 new units of supportive housing online.
A promising start, but there is much more work to be done. Nearly 7,000 people are experiencing homelessness, with about 3,500 currently living on our streets. As San Franciscans we demand better for people on the streets and better for our community.
On Tuesday, voters can take the next step and ensure that San Francisco doubles down on smart solutions for two of the City’s most pressing problems by passing Proposition J and Proposition K.
Residents have long demanded that The City get serious about solving homelessness and transportation issues. Passage of props J and K will ensure that The City set aside $150 million annually for homelessness and transportation investments. A modest sum in a city budget of close to $10 billion, but a possible game changer for the thousands of San Franciscans living on our streets and in our shelters.
Prop. K would increase The City’s sales tax from 8.75 percent to 9.25 percent on goods and services raising an estimated $154 million per year. Prop. K means your $4 breakfast sandwich would go from $4.35 to $4.37; your new $99 running shoes would go from $107.66 to $108.15. This modest increase would create significant resources for ending homelessness and improving public transportation. While a .5 percent increased rate may be a hard pill to swallow for residents already reeling from the high cost of living in S.F., it would be among the lowest in the Bay Area. Solutions to traffic and homelessness aren’t cheap; not investing in solutions is far more expensive as we end up paying more for costly emergency room visits, policing and jails. Not investing in transportation means losing time and money to congestion, more pollution, and unnecessary injuries and deaths from unsafe roads. Deferring today’s problems for tomorrow might be penny smart, but it is dollar dumb.
Prop. J will ensure that the new revenue from the increased sales tax will be used specifically on homeless services and transportation improvements. Prop. J will invest these resources in homelessness prevention, shelters and navigation centers, improved street outreach and supportive housing. Additionally, Prop. J funding will provide more supportive services to address the complex mental health and addiction challenges that cause so many to end up on our streets. New dedicated resources will enable San Francisco to end chronic homelessness for veterans, end family homelessness, and intensify efforts to address youth and chronic homelessness.
This funding will enable The City to open at-least two additional Navigation Centers — innovative, service-rich, low-threshold residential programs for individuals who have been living on the street and in tents for extended periods. Navigation Centers have proved to be critical to reducing street homelessness. Encampments cannot be resolved without safe places for people to go, and Navigation Centers are those places.
The transportation funding will go towards maintenance and repair of local streets, maintaining and replacing Muni buses and light rail, relieving crowding on transit and improving transit speed and reliability, and improving street safety.
Solutions to homelessness are pretty straightforward — prevent when possible, stabilize people in crisis with services and provide viable housing options. World class cities and transportation systems are built on well-maintained streets that let people, goods and services move around safely and efficiently. Props J and K do these things.
J and K work together. You can’t have one without the other. Both must pass. Vote yes on J. Vote yes on K.
Sherilyn Adams is executive director of Larkin Street Youth Services, Tom Radulovich is executive director of Livable City and John Avalos is a member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors.