SF homeless advocates seek more funding for new set of initiatives

A coalition of providers of services to the homeless is asking San Francisco to spend an additional $13.8 million to help one of The City’s most vulnerable populations.

The increased funding would go toward preventing thousands of evictions, helping house hundreds of people living on the streets or at risk of losing their homes through rental subsidies, and renovating vacant units.

The Homeless Emergency Service Providers Association is shopping its funding proposal around to the Board of Supervisors and Mayor Ed Lee as city officials are re-examining how they address homeless people in a series of hearings being chaired by Supervisor Mark Farrell, who has recently taken up issues related to homelessness. [jump]
The increased investment also comes as a budget analyst’s recent report found The City spends $165.7 million on homelessness annually while the population has remained mostly flat at about 6,400 residents.

But homeless advocates say these numbers only show the need to invest more, noting that The City was able to weather the recession for years without seeing an increase of people living on the streets.

“Yes, that sounds like a lot of money,” said Dan Bowersox, a representative of the coalition, “but if you look at it another way, that’s 2 percent of our city budget. We know that our programs are effective. We know that they are efficient.
“We can really put a serious dent in this problem if we devote the right resources to it.”

The funding request includes halting preventable evictions by funding resources such as $2 million for legal counsel to fight evictions in court.
“We need a ‘surge’ in the number of eviction-defense attorneys … to make eviction-happy landlords think twice about litigating for profit,” the proposal said.

Also proposed is $6.2 million for increased rental subsidies for homeless people or those at risk of becoming homeless, including a new type of rental subsidy.
“The subsidy would be deep enough to enable households to rent in the bottom 20 percent of the rental market while contributing 30 percent of their income toward the rent,” the proposal said. “The program will allow us to house these
San Franciscans for about $15,000 per household, while saving several times that amount on emergency services.”
The coalition is also asking for about $1.9 million to rehabilitate 173 vacant public-housing units.

The proposal estimates that funding would prevent 2,700 households from being evicted, fund 400 household subsidies and create 114 below-market-rate units run by nonprofits.

Jennifer Friedenbach, executive director of the San Francisco Homeless Coalition, said the proposals would end up costing The City
less.

“All of these are substantially cheaper than keeping someone homeless,” she said. “They are innovative solutions that can be put into place this year.”

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