Supervisor Matt Haney has called for the creation of a commission to provide oversight to the Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

Voters could give public, Board of Supervisors greater say over homeless department

Supervisor Matt Haney introduced charter amendment Tuesday creating new oversight commission

Greater oversight could soon come to San Francisco’s homeless department.

Supervisor Matt Haney introduced a charter amendment for the November ballot Tuesday to create a Homelessness Oversight Commission for the Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing, which launched in August 2016.

“Homelessness is our most urgent crisis as a city, yet the department that oversees our response to this crisis has less oversight, accountability, and transparency over its budget, Director, and policies than nearly every other City Department,” Haney said in a statement.

The commission would have seven members and launch in March 2020. The mayor would appoint three members to the commission, the Board of Supervisors three members and the San Francisco Unified School District’s Board of Education one member.

Like other city commissions, the body would have the power to recommend candidates to the mayor for who should serve as the department head.

The measure comes following a number of hotly-contested debates over The City’s homeless policies around enforcement of tent encampment laws or the slow pace of opening new Navigation Centers. It also comes just days after the release of a homeless count in January that found a 17 percent increase in the homeless population since 2017.

The commission would also have the power to approve or disapprove “all determinations by the Director to open or close homeless shelters, navigation centers, or other facilities that provide shelter to unsheltered persons, except shelters provided in response to a public emergency.”

The measure has the backing of Supervisors Shamann Walton Hillary Ronen and Aaron Peskin.

Notably, the measure also has picked up support from Del Seymour, who co-chairs of the Local Homelessness Coordinating Board, which is The City’s current advisory board for the homeless department.

“There are only a few departments that don’t have an oversight commission, and they are essentially doing whatever they want without input from the citizens,” Seymour said in a statement. “The Local Homelessness Coordinating Board hasn’t been applicable in the governance of the Department of Homelessness because we don’t have the jurisdiction to weigh in on their policies or budget.”

In fiscal year 2017-2018 the department provided more than $165 million in contracts to 48 nonprofit organizations. The department’s seven budget and finance staff manages a $245 million annual budget.

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