A plan to make it more difficult for families to enter a waitlist for high-demand homeless shelter beds appears doomed.
Trent Rhorer, director of the Human Services Agency, said Thursday that he had proposed the eligibility requirements to prioritize families who are most in need.
But homeless advocates and members of the Board of Supervisors Neighborhood Services and Safety Committee blasted the plan during a hearing, saying it would create needless barriers for desperate families and run afoul of The City's sanctuary laws for undocumented immigrants, which are designed to shield people from deportation proceedings.
The policy change, proposed as part of Mayor Ed Lee's $7.9 billion budget proposal, takes aim at family homelessness in San Francisco, which has dramatically increased since 2007. Hundreds of families and thousands of students are thought to be struggling with homelessness.
Supervisor David Campos said if Rhorer attempted to implement the policy as planned Aug. 1, he would introduce legislation to prevent it. At the conclusion of Thursday's hearing, Rhorer indicated he would not roll out the plan as conceived.
San Francisco's “robust” shelter system provides families with both emergency shelter beds of one- to 60-day stays and longer-term shelter beds for between three and six months.
Rhorer's policy would impact the longer-term beds, of which there are 239 run by three different nonprofit groups. There are currently 59 families housed in the long-term beds, he said. Families gain access to the beds through a waitlist, which now has about an eight-month wait.
“Right now we have about 220 families on the waiting list,” Rhorer said, which is down from a recent high of 270.
Rhorer's policy restricts who can join a waitlist by requiring them to fall below an income threshold, which would be 35 percent of the area median. For a family of three, that's less than $32,000 annually. Also, to get on the list, they would have to sign up for the state's welfare program for food stamps or medical care, known as CalWORKs, and prove they reside in The City or at least intend to.
“Clearly we are talking about a limited resource with heavy, heavy demand,” Rhorer said. “It is important to prioritize families who are most in need.”
But Supervisor Jane Kim said the answer is in creating more affordable housing units, not attempting to make it harder for families to get on a waitlist.