Tuesday, January 02, 2018

Homeward Bound gets no respect

SF Public Press

It's the city's most sensible, cost-effective homeless program, but it gets little respect. A mention buried in a front page Chronicle story last month is typical:

More than 13,000 homeless people were moved off the streets or sent voluntarily back home under Lee, more than 1,800 units of supportive housing were created, and another 1,000 homeless people got rent subsidies. The nation’s first counseling team devoted solely to clearing away street camps has dismantled 21 encampments, with most of those people going into shelters (emphasis added).

A 2016 Examiner story provided some background on the program, as did SF Public Press last year.

Even though Homeward Bound is an important part of City Hall's homeless policy, when you go to the city's new Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing, you find nothing about it. Seems like the city is embarrassed about the program, though it's not clear why it should be.

Instead, you have to go to this site, which seems to be at least partly supported by the city.

The Examiner had to invoke the Freedom of Information Act to get this from City Hall:

Since February 2005, The City has provided nearly 10,000 homeless residents Greyhound bus tickets — also a $10 per travel day allowance for food — to cities across the United States under Homeward Bound, the bus ticket home program, according to data compiled by the San Francisco Examiner through the Freedom of Information Act. The total number bused fluctuates each year from a low of 815 to a high of 942. That amounts to an average of more than two homeless people every day that San Francisco ships out via Greyhound. The numbers are expected to increase. The Human Services Agency, which oversees the program, has recently hired more case managers in an attempt to boost participation.

So why hasn't the city's homeless problem been solved by now? After processing more than 20,000 of the homeless and spending nearly $2 billion over ten years, the number of homeless in the city is pretty much the same. The answer: Because homeless people---and the marginal and soon-to-be homeless---keep arriving in the city.

All the city can do is try to cope with the problem humanely, which it's been trying to do for more than ten years.

Since Homeward Bound is an important part of that coping strategy, why is City Hall so shamefaced about acknowledging it?

At least one city official isn't shy about defending the program:

Trent Rhorer, director of the Human Services Agency, defended the program. “There are a lot of ways to leave the street,” he said. “One of those is to go back to your family. Critics can call it ‘Greyhound therapy.’ They can call it whatever the hell they want to call it,” Rhorer continued. “It ain’t. We’re contacting the receiver who is agreeing to take them in.” Rhorer said the program addresses the reality of housing supply, calling it “unrealistic” to house the thousands using the program.

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Pic of the Moment


Kevin Drum

Statues of Confederate leaders weren’t put up to commemorate the war dead. They were put up decades later as part of a campaign to prop up Jim Crow and white supremacy.

Rob's comment:
And of course the Confederate South is now Republican territory.

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