Saturday, March 28, 2015

Is the city still trying to get the homeless off our streets?

The whole point of the change in homeless policy initiated by Mayor Newsom more than ten years ago was to get homeless people off city streets. Care Not Cash, passed by city voters in 2002, stopped giving the homeless cash payments---more than $300 a month---since that was seen as essentially enabling the homeless to continue living on our streets and in our parks.

Not surprisingly, when Care Not Cash went into effect, 1,000 of the homeless who were getting cash dropped off the welfare rolls. Evidently they just wanted the cash, not the care.

In spite of early optimism after the city changed its policy to emphasize supportive housing, homelessness persists on the same level as before Care Not Cash.

From the Chronicle's Heather Knight's excellent account last year of the homeless problem in the city:

Jeff Bialik, director of Catholic Charities, said, “We get someone into housing and the question is, ‘Is that it?’ I think sometimes for many people that sort of becomes it.“Are we saying permanent, supportive housing is where they’re going to live for the rest of their lives, or are we saying it’s a place folks are going to move into and then move on? We haven’t really come to grips with that.”

Since most of the homeless are essentially unemployable, how are they supposed to "move on" to housing that isn't subsidized?

The Examiner's recent story on supportive housing.

Matier & Ross recently had this quote from the DPH:

“I’m not sure the function of the [Homeless Outreach]team is to get people off the street,” unless it is to a hospital or, if they are passed out, to a sobriety center, said health department spokeswoman Rachael Kagan.

Randy Shaw is rightly critical of how the outreach policy is working.

More from Heather Knight:

In some ways, the[supportive housing] plan worked. In the past 10 years, 11,362 homeless single adults have been housed. An additional 8,086 people have been sent home to a willing friend or family member through the Homeward Bound program, which pays for bus tickets out of San Francisco and back to their hometowns.

Homeward Bound is my favorite homeless program, since it costs an average of $179 to bus a homeless person out of town, a bargain for a city that spends $165 million a year on the problem.

But the reality: more homeless people replace those who used to be on the streets, since San Francisco is a destination not just for high-end tourists and techies but also for the marginal and the soon-to-be homeless.

Back when Willie Brown was mayor, in a Chronicle op-ed, Angela Alioto, who was running against Brown, chided him for not coming up with "a quick, effective solution" to homelessness. Everyone now understands that there are no quick, easy solutions for homelessness. All cities can realistically do is cope with a problem that's apparently always going to be with us.

One wonders too about the Lava Mae bus project that provides the homeless with a chance to bathe. Is the city returning to the pre-Care Not Cash approach, however well-intentioned, that in effect makes it easier for the homeless to stay on the streets?

The city has been successful in reducing the number of the homeless that die on city streets every year.

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At 10:28 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

After talking to street people in my SOMA neighborhood, I have found that a core group do not seek shelter at night because they cannot do drugs or drink in the shelters. They also say that they are not allowed to bring in their shopping carts and extensive belongings. Whatever the reason, I do not support continued enabling of street people. As for single women with children, families, single women without children and single men who are not doing drugs and drinking, then yes we need to find housing.

At 3:51 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Or bus them outtahere under the Homeward Bound program.


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