Assembly

Assembly – Assemblyman Phil Ting

Homeless solution coming

by Assemblyman Phil Ting

 

If you surveyed San Franciscans and asked them to name the most pressing issues that

we face as a city, homelessness would be on everyone’s list. And for good reason. The

2017 San Francisco Homeless Point-in-Time Count and Survey found a total of

7,499 homeless individuals currently living in the City.

 

While that number has decreased slightly from the last count conducted two years ago,

it is up two percent from 2013. Fifty-eight percent, or more than 4,000, of that number

were not living in a shelter.

 

Those of us who frequent Golden Gate Park or work downtown see far too many of

those who need help. As a lawmaker and chair of the California Assembly’s Budget

Committee, I know that I have the responsibility to do something about it.

 

A priority for the city’s Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing is finding

a permanent site for a navigation center. That’s why I worked to include conferring

with advocates and the city’s homeless department and fought to include $10 million in

this year’s state budget to establish at least one permanent site for homeless people.

 

Homelessness is truly a citywide issue. While the count found the largest number of

people facing homelessness living in the Tenderloin, South of Market and Bayview

neighborhoods, the count found 313 living in Golden Gate Park and 136 in the

Richmond District.

 

One solution is opening more of what are called “navigation centers” throughout the

City. Navigation centers temporarily house individuals while case managers work to

connect them with stable employment and housing.

 

The first navigation center opened at 16th and Mission streets two years ago, and the

newest opened earlier this year at the site of the former McMillan Electric Company at

26th Street and South Van Ness Avenue.

 

In neighborhoods where navigation centers were proposed, neighbors initially resisted

due to the belief that the centers would only draw more homeless people to their

sidewalks and stoops, but tent encampments in the blocks surrounding these

centers have all but vanished.

 

Unfortunately, all of these sites are temporary and will eventually close. The two sites

in the Mission, which together currently house 195 people, will close next year and be

developed into housing.

 

Currently, sites are being scouted in the industrial area of the Mission District and

beyond. I eagerly await news from San Francisco’s Department of Real Estate as it looks

for sites, and I look forward to touring the finished facility when it opens.

 

Additionally, I authored and passed Assembly Bill (AB) 932 through the legislature this

year, and it was signed into law by California Gov. Jerry Brown. The legislation creates a

three-year pilot program in selected communities, including San Francisco, Oakland,

Berkeley and Los Angeles, with the goal of expediting the process of building more

temporary shelters.

 

More than one in five of our nation’s homeless people live in California.

Several communities in California have formally declared shelter crises for their

homeless populations, as demand for shelter beds far outstrips supply. Fully two-thirds

of our state’s homeless population are unsheltered, and no city in the state shelters more

than half of its homeless population on a given night. The status quo is not working.

 

The legislation also includes standards for accountability. Beginning in 2019,

communities in the pilot program must report to the legislature annually how

they have reduced the number of their unsheltered homeless and increased the number

they have helped become permanently housed. They must also present a plan for

developing more permanent supportive housing.

 

Under AB-932, cities will have the freedom to try new and innovative shelter models, and

our city’s navigation centers can serve as examples for a new model.

 

With the combination of monetary and legislative support from the state, we can begin

to address this vexing issue.

 

Phil Ting represents the 19th Assembly District, which includes the west side

of San  Francisco.

 

 

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