City hits pay dirt with program for homeless

More than 2,200 formerly homeless people have been placed into city-funded housing since 2004 through the Care Not Cash program championed byMayor Gavin Newsom, who said Wednesday that panhandlers seen on the streets may be poor, but most are not homeless.

Homelessness has been a problem that has vexed numerous city leaders, with the most recent count done by The City, in 2007, finding 6,377 homeless people in San Francisco.

Newsom based his first run for mayor in 2003 on a platform built upon Care Not Cash, which he proposed as a supervisor and voters passed in 2002. The controversial law authorizes The City to provide housing and services to some welfare recipients who were homeless instead of giving cash aid.

“We have a report today that substantiates our claims and disputes the claims of those that were opposed to this initiative,” Newsom said, adding that the perceived problem of homelessness in The City is more “visual” than reality, since the majority of panhandlers on the street are not homeless.

The initiative and its $14 million in redirected funds is reaching single adult homeless people, its intended target, the audit reports.

Eighty percent of welfare recipients in the program are housed within five months, and 90 percent stay housed for at least one year, according to the audit. The number of recipients of County Adult Assistance Program funding, or welfare, has decreased since the inception of Care Not Cash in 2004, declining from 2,632 before the program started to 642 by the end of 2007, according to the audit.

Opponents to the measure applauded the “few” who received housing through the program, but called it a “gimmick” that ousted poor folks to make room for homeless people to live in their housing units.

The1,321 units added to The City’s housing portfolio for the homeless may have been affordable housing as they were in single-room-occupancy, or SRO, hotels, notes the audit.

“Anecdotally, the conditions [on the street] are the same if not worse,” said Supervisor Chris Daly, whose district includes the Tenderloin. He said the only way to make sure everyone is housed is to increase the number of affordable housing units in The City.

Jennifer Friedenbach, head of the Coalition on Homelessness, said the program puts people in hotel rooms that the poor have always lived in and “their income was taken away to pay for it.”

“It’s not a permanent solution,” she said. “It’s more of a shell game.”

The audit did make two recommendations: to better track Care Not Cash clients in the system and create case management reports to determine how clients are faring.

dsmith@examiner.com

By the numbers

A report gives details about the effectiveness of Care Not Cash, a city program to replace welfare payments with housing assistance.

» 2,217: People who have found housing through the program

» 80 percent: Recipients housed within five months of applying

» 90 percent: Recipients who stayed housed for at least one year

» 2,632: Welfare cases in Dec. 2003

» 642: Welfare cases in Dec. 2007

» $332: Amount in cash given to County Adult Assistance Programs recipients each month before Care Not Cash started

» $64: Amount in cash given to County Adult Assistance Programs recipients each month after Care Not Cash started

» $1,212: Amount of housing and support services given to County Adult Assistance Programs recipients each month from Care Not Cash

Source: Controller’s office audit

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