San Francisco Chronicle, Mar. 12, 2020
By Trisha Thadani
As San Francisco and the rest of California rapidly lose their board-and-care homes, a new state bill aims to lessen the blow of closing these long-term facilities for the homeless, mentally ill and drug-addicted.
The bill, written by Assemblyman David Chiu, D-San Francisco, and sponsored by Mayor London Breed, outlines a protocol that adult residential facilities must follow when they decide to shut their doors. The hope is that the new requirements will increase transparency and give residents ample notice that they are going to have to move.
“Most operators are operating on a shoestring budget with very little funding and soaring costs,” Chiu said. “This (legislation) addresses one aspect of the challenge, but the broader challenge is how do we ensure that operators are able to stabilize?”
Board-and-care homes are integral to the state’s homelessness response, as they provide long-term housing for California’s most vulnerable — who would likely otherwise be living on the streets. But as the cost of living and doing business soars all over the state, board-and-care homes are increasingly squeezed to their breaking point.
San Francisco alone has lost more than a quarter of its board-and-care beds since 2012. The city is already struggling to handle its swelling homeless population, which is overwhelming neighborhoods, shelters, treatment programs and the San Francisco General Hospital emergency room.
The loss of board-and-care homes — which are home-like environments with 24-hour care — only compounds the problem.
Chiu said he is also working on a one-time budget proposal with Assemblyman Richard Bloom, D-Santa Monica, to add $500 million to the state’s general fund to help stabilize board-and-cares.
There are two main types of board-and-care facilities in the state: adult residential facilities, which serve people between 18 and 59 years old, and residential care facilities for the elderly, which are for those 60 and older.
There are 73 adult residential facilities licensed in San Francisco and about 6,600 in California.
The requirements proposed in the state bill include: Submitting a closure plan to the state Department of Social Services and developing relocation and referrals for residents and giving residents a 60-day notice before closing — 30 days more than the law currently requires. Owners would be fined $100 per resident per day if the facility violates those requirements.
The bill wouldn’t stop the city or any other adult residential facility operator from evicting residents. But if it passes, it will bring adult residential facilities in line with residential care facilities, which already adhere to such closure requirements.
The proposal comes several months after the San Francisco Department of Public Health received intense backlash over a decision to transform a number of beds in an adult residential facility at San Francisco General Hospital into a temporary respite facility for the homeless.
While residents were given a 60-day notice, city health care workers, facility residents and their families were furious over what they said was a botched relocation plan that caught them by surprise.
“This legislation will help us ensure that our residents have ample notification in the event of a residential facility closure, and that they receive assistance to find a new facility that meets their needs,” Breed said in a statement.
Amid a raft of closures in the past few years, Breed and three San Francisco supervisors announced a three-part plan to try to prevent the facilities from closing. They increased the subsidy from $22 a night to $35 a night per person for board-and-care operators, made it harder to convert board-and-care homes into single-family homes and encouraged the city to purchase homes on the verge of closure.
Still, several facilities this year announced they could no longer make ends meet.
The city, however, is working on plans to purchase three board-and-care facilities on the brink of closure: A facility with 20 beds on Buena Vista Park, nine beds north of the Golden Gate Park Panhandle and 29 beds in the Mission.
“We must protect our most vulnerable residents, especially people who have long-term behavioral health needs and are at risk of homelessness,” Breed said.