San Francisco’s young homeless residents have a few ideas about what they need, and The City is listening.
Since October, youth who were homeless or formerly homeless were provided with a $25 gift card to attend meetings and tell The City what it could do to better help them; as many as 30 people would show up.
Three of them summarized those discussions during Thursday’s Local Homeless Coordinating Board meeting, creating a strong presence for a segment of the homeless population often described as invisible.
One main request was for a 24-hour drop-in center.
“I think a great placement for it would be in Haight Ashbury. Because that’s near Castro, and also Haight is where all the kids sleep outside,” one youth, who requested not to be identified by name, told the board on Thursday.
Another concern was that the Department of Public Works throws out the belongings of homeless youth, who often stash things around town.
“From my personal experience being homeless and sleeping on concrete, I was not affected by this because I always kept my belongings on my back,” said a 23-year-old who asked to be identified as Anubi Daugherty. “But I’ve seen it with my own eyes.”
One of the ideas proposed by the youth, which is also being discussed by the Mental Health Board, is to add mobile vans to provide mental health and other services.
Such vans could also serve as a place “for youth to be able to drop their belongings off in the morning and then go to work or go to school so they can fit in and act normally in society and not come back to see their belongings gone,” said the first unidentified youth.
Daugherty said that much of the youth criticized The City’s quality-of-life laws, such as sit-lie, no sleeping in parks at night and the recent voter-approved prohibition of tent encampments on sidewalks.
“The youth at these meetings have felt that they do not want to be harassed by The City and the police in general,” Daugherty said.
Other ideas included training youth to help peers out when in need and a pathway to living-wage employment in nonprofits working with homeless youth.
These so-called Youth Policy and Advisory Committee meetings were organized by the Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing as part of an application requirement to receive $2.9 million for transitional aged homeless youth, ages 18 to 24 from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Youth Homelessness Demonstration Project.
The committee’s input was then used to create the “San Francisco Coordinated Community Plan to Prevent and End Youth Homelessness,” which will guide the funding allocation.
“The meetings are dynamic and they are exciting and they are well-attended,” said Ali Schlageter, who coordinates youth policies for the Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing. “It’s a diverse group, and they give a lot of insightful feedback.”
The plan is expected to be submitted to HUD today. A draft outlines 10 major goals.
Some of the more interesting ideas include incentives for youth participation in programs, such as “employment training programs that compensate youth for time spent at case management or mental health appointments as well as for time spent at work.”
There are goals to provide around-the-clock bathrooms and showers in areas where youth congregate and to better address the youth who are simply passing through, sometimes called “travelers,” by ascertaining how many of them access services annually.
There are goals to create “flexible funding pools” that could be used to cover youth expenses, like transportation or utilities, to prevent them from becoming homeless and to also promote the funding pool “to draw the attention of landlords and other advocates who may be hesitant to provide housing and services.”
There is also a call for more creative housing opportunities, such as asking for volunteers to share their housing or recruiting landlords to be Supervised Independent Living Placements.
The plan calls for community forums “to educate the public that homelessness is not a crime” and public service campaigns to “change the stigma and perception” of homeless youth.
The most recent point-in-time homeless count released last month identified 7,499 homeless persons, a 0.5 percent decrease from the 2015 count. In 2015, there were 1,569 unaccompanied children and transitional aged youth counted, which decreased to 1,363 in 2017.
Nearly half of the youth identified as LGBTQ, and 26 percent had a history of foster care. The largest single cause cited for being homeless was an argument with family or friend, followed by losing a job.
“Research shows that 50 percent of chronically homeless adults were homeless during the ages of 18 to 24,” the draft report states.