San Francisco: A multifaceted policy

Homelessness has confronted every San Francisco mayor for the past 50 years. It is not a new, but an evolving, phenomenon. While the issues plaguing our streets are undeniable, they are not unique.

The surge of opiate abuse and addiction on the street, decreasing support from the federal government for affordable housing programs and the generational lack of home building has placed the Bay Area in the position we are today.

To meet this challenge, we need flexibility, adaptation and commitment. Homelessness is a complicated issue that requires a multifaceted approach. Our efforts provide targeted services and resources to the various segments of our homeless population.

Last July, I created the Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing, which has a singular focus of ending homelessness for every individual it touches. In the past year, the city has ended homelessness for 1,813 people and placed 750 people into permanent supportive housing.

Jamie Crisco climbs back into his tent which is set up along Vermont St. as seen on June 8, 2017, in San Francisco, Calif. Noah Miller, (left) came by to visit a friend nearby. Michael Macor, The Chronicle

In addition, we launched our Encampment Resolution Teams, whose mission is to move individuals from unsanitary living conditions to safe, stable situations. In the past year, these teams resolved 12 encampments, moving 359 people off our streets.

We also expanded our Navigation Center system. This national model provides support and resources to help place individuals into situations best suited for their needs. Nearly 70 percent of those who enter our centers are transitioned into permanent housing, moved into safe temporary placements or reunited with family.

In the next two years, we will build on the services we know are working while deploying new strategies to address changing conditions.

With the opening of the Dogpatch Navigation Center last month, and the planned opening of three new Navigation Centers in the next year, we are increasing the number of beds at those facilities by 149 percent. Among those will be the first Navigation Center tailored for individuals experiencing mental health issues and addiction.

We are expanding our outreach teams, which offer coordinated responses to homelessness issues, and stepping up our encampment resolution teams.

For families experiencing homelessness, we are adding nearly $2 million to open a new shelter and $3 million in rapid re-housing subsidies to avoid displacement. We have allocated $4 million to expand our city’s homeless child care program.

We are also increasing investments for youth-homelessness programs to add drop-in hours at the SF LGBT Community Center and rental subsidies for vulnerable young adults. We will help move these young adults into homes and services.

Mayor Ed Lee (left), and Randy Shaw, executive director of Tenderloin Housing Clinic, stand in a corridor during a tour of the Winton Hotel during a press conference on supportive housing on May 12, 2017 in San Francisco, Calif. Lea Suzuki, The Chronicle

By the end of this year, we have vowed to end chronic homelessness among military veterans, and by 2019 we are committed to finding housing for 800 families experiencing homelessness through our Heading Home campaign.

We are partnering with Tipping Point, a private nonprofit organization, on a $100 million initiative to reduce chronic homelessness by half during the next five years. Tipping Point will invest in and expand city programs with proven success.

Our approach to homelessness is one of compassion and common sense. This is the great challenge of our time, and San Francisco will rise to the task.

This piece originally published in the June 25, 2017 edition of the San Francisco Chronicle, as a part of the 3 part series featuring Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf and San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo