Newsom seeks new homeless funds

Mayor Gavin Newsom on Wednesday lauded recent city efforts to relieve the homeless problem and revealed that his upcoming budget would include several million dollars to increase services for the homeless population, including job training, housing for inebriates and doubling the number of outreach workers.

Newsom, who was elected in 2003 partly on a pledge to end chronic homelessness, said that San Francisco was once a “national disgrace” in dealing with the homeless, but that now The City has become a “national model.”

His comments came a day before the three-year anniversary of his Care Not Cash program — approved by voters in November 2002 and launched in 2004. The program reduces the welfare checks given to single homeless people in exchange for housing or shelter.

After three years, the program has housed 1,872 homeless people, Newsom’s homeless czar, Trent Rhorer, said. “These are people who, absent of the program, would be homeless and receiving cash aid,” Rhorer said.

The City has a 95 percent retention rate of housing homeless people, which means they stay in the housing for at least one year or move on into better housing, Rhorer said.

“We still have a long way to go in terms of homelessness in The City,” Rhorer said. “Care Not Cash, when implemented, we recognized it was only part of the solution.”

Newsom said that his city budget, which will be submitted to the Board of Supervisors for approval on June 1, will include funding to double the number of homeless outreach workers from 18 to 36, provide housing for inebriated homeless people who agree to participate in treatment programs but would still be permitted to drink, and set up a “one-stop shop” job center in the Tenderloin at the Boyd Hotel.

A recent homeless count identified 6,377 homeless persons — an increase from the 2005 count of 6,248 home persons. The count included those not only living on the streets but also those in shelters, hospitals or the country jail. Of that total, about 2,771 were characterized as chronically homeless, those living on the streets for more than two years.

The 2007 total showed a 38 percent drop from the 8,640 homeless persons counted in 2002, which Newsom said proves that The City is seeing success.

“We are stabilizing our efforts and the efforts ultimately have over the last three years precipitated substantial declines,” Newsom said. “That being said, we still have 2,771 that are still out in the streets that need our disproportionate support.”

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