(Cindy Chew/2010 S.F. Examiner)

SF assessing what it will take to end homelessness

Anyone who wants to know just exactly what it would take to end homelessness in San Francisco is about to find out.

While The City’s 10-year plan to end homelessness expired in 2014, a new five-year strategy is being developed by Jeff Kositsky, director of the new Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing.

The plan will include details about what it would take in both funding and resources to reduce homelessness and a timeline to achieve such a goal.

The plan will also establish goals for the department, such as the removal of a certain number of homeless street encampments or a date for ending veterans and family homelessness.

“For the long term, we are doing a gaps analysis in the system and saying if we want to achieve ‘goal X,’ this is how many units of housing we are going to need, this is how much more shelter we are going to need,” Kositsky told the Board of Supervisors Budget and Finance Committee last week.

The committee on Wednesday voted in favor of Supervisor Mark Farrell’s resolution calling for the new long-term plan to address homelessness in alignment with Kositsky’s effort. The full board is expected to vote on the resolution Tuesday.

Farrell said last week that the plan would also serve as a document by which “the rest of San Francisco can hold us accountable to measure our progress and our failures.”

Since San Francisco doesn’t have enough resources to meet the needs of the more than 6,000 homeless residents, a big question will not only be how much the goal costs but how to fund it. A sales tax hike that was defeated by voters in November would have added $50 million more annually into homeless services.

It’s unclear what path San Francisco might take to provide the financial boost needed for the breadth of resources it would take to house thousands. Los Angeles voters, for instance, recently passed a $1.2 billion bond to house the homeless.

“We are a few months off from having final numbers, but it is safe to say that we need more Navigation Centers and housing opportunities for single adults and youth,” Kositsky said in a text message Friday to the San Francisco Examiner. “I cannot say if we will need to go back to the voters in 2018 but we certainly need to come up with a long-term investment plan.”

The next scheduled election is June 2018.

The plan was initially to be issued in January, six months after the department’s creation, but the data analysis is taking longer than anticipated, Kositsky said.

A draft is now due out in February, a gap analysis in March and a final five-year strategic plan in April.

“We are really trying to break the problem down into adult homelessness, family homelessness, veterans and unaccompanied youth,” Kositsky said during Wednesday’s hearing.

The plan will address resources ranging from shelter beds to rental subsidies.

In helping to develop the strategy, Kositsky hired Corporation for Supportive Housing to redesign the homeless service system, which would lead to the creation of one coordinated data system, instead of some 13 different data systems currently in use, and a simplified entry process for accessing services.

That’s meant to end what he described as a confused system often failing to correctly address the needs of a homeless resident.

“We will able to track that person through the system and know about their success or their lack of success,” he said. The goal is to create momentum toward stable housing so that “once you get into the system there is an end somewhere in sight.”

That will also mean a homeless resident wouldn’t have to go through multiple interviews and assessments to access the services they need. “By the end of 2019, we should have a completely redesigned homeless services system,” Kositsky said.

The system will include criteria for whom to prioritize, “because we don’t have enough resources,” he added.

Gail Gilman, executive director of the nonprofit Community Housing Partnership that provides supportive housing, said the new coordinated system would expedite moving people off the streets and into housing.

“San Francisco is one of the last major cities across the country that has not implemented a full, robust coordinated intake and assessment system,” Gilman said. “We know at Community Housing Partnership that matching homeless individuals to the right housing and the right intervention really works.”

Jennifer Friedenbach, executive director of the San Francisco Homeless Coalition, said she supports the coordinated system but emphasized that “having a smooth data system and access is not going to create more housing.”

“No matter how smooth it is, if we don’t have places for people to move into, we really are not going to get there,” she said.

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