Affordability and the high cost of living in San Francisco have dominated media attention for the greater part of a year, and rightfully so. As a city, we are balancing a thriving local economy with the ancillary effects of growth, and the implications for the heart and soul of San Francisco are real.
During the same period, however, another consistent area of concern for San Francisco residents has gone largely untouched in City Hall — our homeless population. While we continue to spend significant resources combating homelessness, the statistics do not lie — the number of homeless individuals on our streets has remained roughly the same for the past 10 years.
It’s time for a renewed focus.
Above all else, homelessness is a human issue — the people on our streets are mothers, fathers, sons and daughters — they are not strangers to be ignored and passed by. We must remember what it means to be the city of St. Francis.
This issue touches people in different ways — it is also very much a public-safety and civic-pride issue — and is worthy of our focused attention at City Hall.
Today, at the Board of Supervisors Budget and Finance Committee, I will be hosting a hearing on the progress of The City’s 10-year plan to abolish chronic homelessness with input from city, nonprofit and community leaders, and stakeholders who play a significant role in working with our current homeless population. Since originally calling for this hearing, I have met with city department heads, nonprofit and community leaders, as well as outside organizations that tackle homeless issues in other jurisdictions, to find which programs are moving the needle on homelessness and which ones are not.
We all know there is no silver bullet to end homelessness. It takes vigilant attention across multiple disciplines, and, while daunting, it is unacceptable to throw up our hands at the issue. New ideas and policies — beyond and including those that have been previously implemented — are needed to move forward if we are serious about providing tangible solutions to tackling homelessness in San Francisco. This hearing will kick-start a much-needed dialogue and focus on these ideas.
Today is just the first step. It will take a concerted effort and constant attention if we are going to make any headway. Our ethos in San Francisco has always been to care for those less fortunate, and I hope that will never change. Homelessness is an issue that affects us all, and I believe it is time we have a renewed public focus on the issue.
Mark Farrell is a member of the Board of Supervisors.