(Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

Supes approve $15M contract extension for homeless outreach

The Board of Supervisors on Tuesday approved a $15 million contract extension for homeless outreach services, despite questions about the level of service.

Jeff Kositsky, director of Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing, told the board that he will establish a working group in early 2020 to develop outreach criteria that would lead to a new contract proposal when the contract extension expires in June 2021.

In the interim, he asked the board to approve an extension of the existing contract with the private nonprofit Heluna Health to continue to operate the Homeless Outreach Team until June 2021. The extension, which includes a 13 percent pay hike for employees, includes a staffing increase of 15 to bring the total to 86.

HOT workers earn between $49,444 and $68,103 a year and supervisors between $70,000 and $75,000, according to Kositsky

Members of the board raised questions about the team’s performance during a board committee last week, but ultimately voted to send it to the full board for approval.

On Tuesday, Supervisor Matt Haney had additional questions for Kositsky.

“What I see in my neighborhood, in the Tenderloin, is often folks who are out there who may get woken up and moved in the morning by police but rarely am I getting a sense that they are having regular and intensive and effective outreach from folks who are trying to get them support and help and off the street,” Haney said. He suggested there may be a “capacity issue.”

He questioned whether The City should be measuring response time for the workers and the hours of operation. The Homeless Outreach Team works seven days a week between 6:30 am and 9:30 pm.

Kositsky referred to the contract extension as “an interim contract” while they develop what would be the terms of a new contract for the services.

“We are going to stand up a working group early next year and have recommendations and discuss this with the board of supervisors well in advance of issuing another [request for proposals] in hopes of really looking at some more significant changes to the contract,” he said.

The HOT team services will cost The City $8.5 million in each of the next two fiscal years.

Kositsky said that HOT operates in four different ways. Teams accompany first responders responding to 311 or other complaints. There are teams dedicated to regular outreach work in neighborhoods to develop relationships and try to connect homeless with services.

There are also teams assigned to “special projects,” providing services under contract to BART, MUNI, Public Library and Recreation and Park Department. And there is a team of case managers who each have between five and 10 “very high needs clients at a time, who are either in our shelter system or more often than not in stabilization units, which are single rooms in SROs that they are staying in until we can get them either into treatment or a pathway to housing.”

The board unanimously approved the proposal.

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