An estimated 6,000 to 12,000 people are homeless on any given night in San Francisco, according to officials with Project Homeless Connect, which was launched by Mayor Gavin Newsom. But the program, and others he’s championed, has resulted in 10,000 people leaving San Francisco’s streets and shelters since 2004, he said.
This month marks the fifth anniversary of Project Homeless Connect, a program of one-day events started by Newsom that offers homeless people a “one-stop” opportunity to connect with help and services. The 20th such event was held Wednesday at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium.
More than 4,000 of the previously homeless people in San Francisco were returned to their home cities with a bus ticket funded through The City’s Homeward Bound Program, according to the Mayor’s Office.
According to the program’s outreach information, Homeward Bound applicants must have a place to reside at the destination city where there’s “ample support.” Program staff contact family or friends at the destination before the homeless person is given a ticket, and they follow up with the participant one month later to check on their well-being.
However, Jennifer Friedenbach, executive director of the San Francisco-based Coalition on Homelessness, was skeptical of the mayor’s assertions.
“You can’t claim you housed people by giving them a bus ticket,” she said.
Another 2,334 people left life on the streets behind as a result of San Francisco’s Care Not Cash program, the mayor said. As a supervisor, Newsom authored the ballot initiative approved by voters that created the controversial program, which reduces cash assistance to people who are homeless in exchange for housing.
At the fifth anniversary celebration for Project Homeless Connect on Wednesday, Newsom touted the program’s aggressive, cost-effective methods for influencing the way cities worldwide deal with homeless issues.
It has been replicated in more than 200 cities across the U.S., along with Canada and Australia, the Mayor’s Office said.
“Thousands and thousands of lives have changed since we did this five years ago,” Newsom said.