Mayor London Breed has tapped Shireen McSpadden, the executive director of the Department of Disability and Aging Services, to lead The City’s homeless department.
McSpadden will assume the post as director of the Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing on May 1, Breed announced Thursday.
Breed said that McSpadden has the “experience and connection to communities” to help the department meet its goals and implement her Homeless Recovery Plan.
“For years, Shireen has led innovative and effective efforts to care for some of our most vulnerable residents, and over the past year she has been one of the leaders keeping our residents safe, healthy, and housed during this pandemic,” she said in a statement.
McSpadden, who was appointed head of the Department of Disability and Aging Services by Mayor Ed Lee in 2016, has overseen services for more than 70,000 seniors, adults with disabilities, caregivers and veterans.
“Our response to homelessness is one of the most important, pressing and complex issues facing this City as we emerge from this pandemic, and I’m excited to join the Department of Housing and Supportive Housing to continue the work to serve some of our City’s most vulnerable residents,” McSpadden said in a statement.
Jessica Lehman, executive director of Senior Disability Action Network, said McSpadden was “an ideal person to take over” the department and had a “track record of collaborating effectively, dreaming big, and listening to community.”
“Shireen McSpadden has a strong commitment to and deep understanding of the senior and disability communities, who comprise the majority of unhoused people in San Francisco,” Lehman said.
Breed’s pick also drew support from the Coalition on Homelessness and other nonprofits providing services to the homeless.
“We are really excited for new leadership and have high hopes that the city can seize the opportunities we have to move the dial on homelessness,” Jennifer Friedenbach, executive director of the Coalition on Homelessness, told the San Francisco Examiner. “We have had nothing but positive experiences with the new director and as a woman of color we are confident she’ll bring fresh perspective and badly needed inspiration into the homeless department.”
Mary Kate Bacalao, of Compass Family Services, told the Examiner that “it’s exciting to see a woman leader of color with deep roots in San Francisco communities step into this role.”
“Her understanding of the senior and disability communities will be critical as we care for so many people aging into homelessness, including older people in our shelter-in-place hotels and seniors who are left out by coordinated entry,” she said.
The mayor also announced two others who will serve in leadership roles at the department.
Noelle Simmons, the current deputy director at the Human Services Agency, will serve as the homeless department’s chief deputy. Cynthia Nagendra, the current executive director at the Benioff Homelessness and Housing Initiative, will lead long-term planning efforts for the department.
McSpadden takes over the post after Abigail Stewart-Kahn stepped down as HSH’s interim director on April 2, a position she held since March 2020.
The department was launched on July 1, 2016 under the late Mayor Ed Lee and headed by Jeff Kositsky. In March 2020, Kositsky moved on to become the head of the Healthy Streets Operations Center, commonly called HSOC.
Sam Dodge, who previously served as a deputy director in the department under Kositsky, is now serving as the department’s transitional director.