Newsom focusing second term on homelessness

Headed into his second term as mayor, Gavin Newsom said he would renew efforts to combat homelessness, specifically street behavior, conceding that efforts during his first term “haven’t had the impact on street behavior that I would have liked.”

Newsom, first elected in 2003 on a platform built upon the issue of homelessness, has started various efforts in The City to try and remove homeless people from the streets, including Care Not Cash, a program that reduces cash amounts given to homeless people on welfare in exchange for housing or shelter, and Project Homeless Connect, a program that brings health and human services for the homeless under one roof during day-long events every other month.

On Monday, Newsom toured the first Project Homeless Connect gathering of 2008, receiving compliments, complaints and even a painting of himself as he walked through the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium.

Afterward he walked and talked with The Examiner about what he plans to do differently during his second term as mayor, saying he wanted to make a “very big distinction between homelessness/panhandling behavior issues of poverty.”

“We haven’t had the impact on street behavior that I would have liked,” Newsom said, noting that since he began his tenure in office 6,860 formerly homeless people have come off the streets.

A January 2007 homeless count, required biennially by federal law, identified 6,377 homeless people in The City, although homeless advocates questioned the accuracy of the count. A subsequent report by The City revealed that two-thirds of The City’s homeless became transients while here and that while thousands of people have moved into housing or left The City since 2004, more than 3,400 people took their place.

Newsom said programs were working but homelessness remained a “serious problem.”

An August report from the San Francisco Human Services Agency found that San Francisco Police handed out 625 panhandling citations to 147 people from Jan. 1, 2007 to Aug. 24, 2007. Of those 147, 39 were deemed “aggressive” by city officials for receiving five or more citations.

Newsom said the Mayor’s Office will target its outreach over the next four years to focus on high-end users of the services system and combating street behavior with homeless outreach teams, medical respite services, sobering centers and a redesign of The City’s sheltering system.

Priorities for second term

Combating The City’s high homicide rate, a “baby bond” for children and recruiting more like-minded candidates to run forthe Board of Supervisors are among plans the mayor has going into his second term in office.

Newsom told The Examiner Monday that changes at the police department will be made to help lower The City’s high number of homicides, including a new commander’s position within the department that will be “focused exclusively on housing authority sites,” said Newsom.

Additionally, the mayor said in his second term he will push for the creation of a new “baby bond,” a financial account for children in The City to build savings and teach financial literacy, among other things, Newsom said. He will work with the philanthropic sector to partner with The City so the cost is “not exclusively borne by taxpayers,” and those with accounts would be required to perform community or public service to access the account, he added.

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