SF officials seek to expand investment in homeless outreach program 

click to enlarge homeless
  • Cindy chew/2008 s.f. examiner file photo
  • San Francisco has virtually the same number of homeless people now as it did 10 years ago.
San Francisco plans to double its investment in a homeless outreach program to $6.6 million as those living on the streets have come under increased scrutiny amid a better economy and the conclusion of a 10-year plan to address homelessness.

On the heels of a public hearing held by the Board of Supervisors last week, Supervisor Mark Farrell introduced legislation Tuesday that would boost The City’s investment in the homeless outreach team.

Farrell’s proposal would add $1.38 million to the Department of Public Health, which administers the team, to increase staffing for the current fiscal year, which ends June 30. It would also add 100 specialized beds to the existing 300 where the team could immediately bring those contacted on the streets.

Mayor Ed Lee’s proposed city budget is expected to include a total of $6.6 million for an expanded homeless outreach program and additional resources for more of the so-called stabilization beds. The planned investment comes as The City is experiencing a technology boom, helping to fill its coffers with tax revenue.

The program currently has about 15 outreach workers who connect with homeless persons on city streets 24 hours a day as well as 30 case managers. Both positions would double under the spending plan for a total of 90 workers.

Human Services Agency head Trent Rhorer said the outreach team began in 2004 with much success, but over the years its effectiveness dropped off with a decrease in investment.

“Despite all of our good work over the last 10 years, including housing over 3,000 individuals in permanent supportive housing and reuniting over 7,000 individuals with loved ones in other cities, we do have the same number of people on the streets as we did 10 years ago,” Farrell said. “And I do believe it’s time to do more.”

The last time the tackling of homelessness garnered as much public attention was in the early 2000s when then-Supervisor Gavin Newsom promised measures to address the population. Newsom, who later became mayor, created Care Not Cash, a housing-first model and a 10-year plan to end chronic homelessness, which expires in June.

In addition to Farrell’s spending proposal for the outreach program, he has pledged to spearhead other efforts in the coming months.

There were 6,436 homeless individuals counted in last year’s homeless count, of which 3,401 were on the streets without shelter. The remaining 3,035 were residing in shelters, transitional housing, resource centers, residential treatment, jail or hospitals.

“We need new solutions and targeted investments and programs and services,” Farrell said. “This is just the beginning.”

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