Coronavirus crisis pushes SF Mayor Breed to move more homeless into permanent shelter

San Francisco Chronicle, July 21, 2020

By Dominic Fracassa


San Francisco Mayor London Breed unveiled a plan on Tuesday that attempts to chart the city’s course for addressing homelessness over the next two years, a proposal shaped in large part by the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.


Breed’s “Homelessness Recovery Plan” seeks to find shelter or housing accommodations for 6,000 homeless people, a figure that includes 4,500 placements in permanent supportive housing. An estimated 1,500 of those will be new units — a figure the mayor’s office said represents the biggest increase in permanent supportive housing in the last two decades. The city will lease 1,000 of those units in the 2020-2021 fiscal year.


San Francisco currently oversees a stock of around 8,000 units of permanent supportive housing. Starting this year, officials will begin moving homeless people now sheltering in city-leased hotels into permanent supportive housing units.


The costs of Breed’s program will be included as part of the balanced budget she must submit to the Board of Supervisors by August 1, one that is being crafted to close a nearly $2 billion shortfall brought on by the pandemic. Breed will be relying on a combination of general fund dollars, money from the federal and state governments, and philanthropic contributions to see her plan through.


“Even in the midst of this historic budget crisis, we can still do our part to move forward solutions, while still advocating for more support from the federal and state government,” Breed said in a statement. “We know housing is the solution to homelessness, and by expanding access to housing, we can help people get more stable and also create more opportunities to help people off our streets and into our system of care.”


City officials were forced to severely restrict the number of people that could stay in San Francisco shelters during the pandemic, since the virus can spread easily in tight quarters with people living close together. The city plans to gradually reopen about 1,000 shelter beds that are closed, assuming the pandemic begins to recede.


Breed’s plan assumes the city’s sanctioned tent encampments — one accommodation San Francisco has created in light of the shortage of shelter beds — will wind down starting next year and fully close by 2022. A long-planned, 200-bed Navigation Center in the Bayview at 1925 Evans St. is slated to open in January 2021.


And this fall, the city plans to open a Navigation Center for young people ages 18 to 24 at 888 Post Street.


The plan relies in part on voters passing a sweeping business-tax reform effort on the November ballot, which would unlock unspent revenues intended to be spent on homelessness that are tied up by ongoing litigation.


Voters passed Proposition C in 2018 to tax the biggest businesses in San Francisco and use the revenues to pay for permanent supportive housing and other homelessness services. But the measure has been tied up in the courts following a legal challenge over the voter threshold the city used to pass it.


Breed opposed Prop. C in 2018, but is now relying on the proceeds of the measure to fund about $172 million of her homelessness plan over the next two fiscal years.


The Board of Supervisors will deliberate over and adjust the city’s two-year budget starting in August. Breed must sign a final version no later than October 1.

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