San Francisco's public-housing wait list has been closed for years, but it will open for six days beginning today in an effort to help house some of the thousands of children and their parents currently without homes.
The opening of the wait list for homeless people only is part of a broader effort by homeless advocates who fought during the past year to influence the Housing Authority to rehabilitate units that were just sitting empty due to a lack of federal funding.
"Public housing should be a very important tool in any city's response to homelessness," said Bevan Dufty, Mayor Ed Lee's homeless czar. "We're starting to line it up where there is money being provided for by The City, there is prioritizing in making every unit online and available and we've got a preference for homeless families. That's a perfect situation."
Applications for the housing wait list are available online only. Those without Internet access can go to the public library or visit six organizations for help, such as the Tenderloin Technology Lab, the Western Addition Technology Labor or the LGBT Community Center.
The effort primarily targets homeless families because the vacancies are largely at multi-room units in the Sunnydale and Potrero Annex and Terrace complexes, although all homeless people can sign up until the list closes on Jan. 18 at 11:59 p.m. The list was closed in 2010 when it reached nearly 30,000 requests but has since decreased to less than 10,000. Homeless persons will be given housing priority once on the list.
In March, there were 287 vacant units in the public-housing inventory. The rehabilitation work of the units generally ranges in costs from $2,000 to $20,000. In June, The City announced it would provide $2.5 million to the Housing Authority to rehab about 160 unused residences.
New Board of Supervisors President London Breed supported opening up the wait list to help homeless families who recently ended up in local shelters and her office helped allocate The City funding.
"I want to see every family that's homeless in San Francisco housed," Breed said. "This is a start."
Breed said the effort shows an improved working relationship with The City and public housing, as they were able to collaborate on a policy direction and assist with funding.
Jennifer Friedenbach, director of the Coalition on Homelessness, a nonprofit homeless advocate group, said that in preparation of today's wait-list opening, shelter providers and others have been reaching out to the homeless. She estimated there were 3,300 homeless children in San Francisco -- which includes 2,100 homeless students and children under the age of 5 -- and 1,100 families.
"I'm hoping all of them will apply that are interested in it," Friedenbach said.
She estimated that about 30 family sized public-housing units would be made available each month for about the next six months.
Once the large inventory of vacant units are occupied, Dufty estimated that about six to 10 homeless households could move into public housing each month due to the usual unit turnover.