By Supervisor Connie Chan
Becoming homeless could happen to many of us – 59% of Americans are just one paycheck away from becoming homeless.
California’s divestment from mental health treatment in the 1980s, federal divestment from Housing and Urban Development, a stagnant minimum wage that has not caught up with inflation, and many more factors have contributed to growing homelessness. So, it becomes more and more expensive to be working class. Most of our paycheck goes to the basics of survival: rent, groceries, utilities, transportation, childcare, and other daily needs. Any life trauma or financial hit can easily take many of us down a path to homelessness.
Once individuals are on the street, not only are the services and resources to help house them limited, but they can also easily be dragged into a black hole of mental health issues and substance abuse. And even though we know being homeless is not a crime, homeless individuals are easily the target of criminalization.
That’s why we need a compassionate, long-term approach to solve homelessness with serious investments in affordable housing and other services that have seen a decline in federal and state investment for decades. With no statewide eviction moratorium and local eviction moratoriums expiring soon, California could soon see unprecedented levels of homelessness across the state. In order to curb the impact of coming evictions and continued unemployment in some sectors, we need to invest heavily in rent relief and affordable housing.
The good news is that San Francisco voters have given us the green light to do just that, and more help is on the way. In November 2018, more than 61% of voters supported Proposition C, “Our City Our Home,” to fund affordable housing construction and mental health services for unhoused San Franciscans. Starting this year, the city is now able to spend $350 million per year from Prop. C, which will result in more than 1,800 new supportive housing units in the next year and a half.
This past November, voters passed Prop. I to enact a transfer tax on properties sold for more than $10 million to provide more funding for affordable housing and rent relief to support tenants and small landlords. In addition, the state legislature recently passed SB-91, which allocates federal dollars to reimburse landlords who are willing to forgive a portion of the unpaid rent owed by their tenants during the pandemic.
And, for short-term and immediate action, my office is holding regular meetings with the Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing to identify problem areas and solutions specific to our unhoused population in District 1. I received reports from the Homeless Outreach Team that many of the unhoused people living in our neighborhood were previously housed here. Most existing shelters do not offer privacy or allow for individuals to bring in their belongings, causing homeless individuals to feel safer on the street.
This is why I support my colleagues’ proposal to use Shelter In Place (SIP) hotels for unhoused people. Currently, 25 hotels provide shelter to more than 1,800 unhoused people who would otherwise be on our streets. And thanks to the Biden Administration, 100% of eligible costs for these SIP hotels from January 2020 through September 2021 are being reimbursed by FEMA.
In addition to building more affordable housing, I am advocating that the City purchase some of these hotels and convert them into permanent supportive housing, as this is more cost effective and faster than building new housing. The goal is to house as many people as possible who are on our streets, starting NOW.
For anyone with concerns about overcrowded and unsafe encampments, please use these reporting guidelines, and the City will address your concerns as soon as possible.
• For medical emergencies, fires or criminal activity IN PROCESS, call 911;
• If your concern is related to an encampment blocking a sidewalk, and the sidewalk is fully obstructed or there is less than six feet of clearance from entrances to a home or business, you should call Non-Emergency Police at (415) 553-0123;
• If your concern is related to illegal activity within the encampment, you should call Non-Emergency Police at (415) 553-0123 or 911, whichever is appropriate.
• If your concern is about trash or cleaning services around an encampment, tents placed too close and/or safe social distancing guidelines are not being followed, you may report the issue using the SF311 app or call 311.
Thank you to the Richmond Review, Richmond District Rising (RDR) and the Planning Association of the Richmond (PAR) for joining with Project Homeless Connect to bring desperately needed supplies to un-housed people in the neighborhood. The items collected will be distributed by Project Homeless Connect’s CareVan, which comes to the Richmond each month.
To arrange a donation drop off, email SFRichmondRising@gmail.com.
I am committed to being a strong advocate for District 1, to hold our city government accountable to provide better city services, and to help our housed and unhoused neighbors just the same. And as vice-chair of the Government Audit and Oversight Committee, I will review audits and hold hearings to explore ways to make city services and programming more efficient and effective. I will keep pushing until we see results. Meanwhile, please email me directly at Connie.Chan@sfgov.org and ChanStaff@sfgov.org to send me your feedback and concerns.
Connie Chan represents District 1 on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. She can be reached at (415) 554-7410 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Categories: City Hall