City officials and homeless advocates are examining ways to curb evictions in thousands of publicly funded housing units in hopes of keeping these recently housed residents from ending up on the street again, which would give them an even smaller chance of finding future housing options.
“We need to develop eviction standards in nonprofit housing and public housing,” Jennifer Friedenbach, executive director of the San Francisco Coalition on Homelessness, said during a recent Board of Supervisors committee hearing on homelessness. “We talk a lot about eviction in the private market. We need to really set the standard in our nonprofit and public housing and have mediation before it goes to eviction.”
Since 2009, according to Friedenbach, the Eviction Defense Collaborative has counted 1,128 evictions in Human Services Agency-funded housing.
“Since those folks are coming out of homelessness, we can say that a good proportion of those return to homelessness after eviction,” she said. “It is so much harder to get back into housing.”
The Human Services Agency oversees, in partnership with nonprofit housing providers, about 4,000 supportive housing units, while the Department of Public Health oversees 2,000 units, according to HSA Director Trent Rhorer.
The City is currently exploring redevelopment options for the federally funded Housing Authority sites comprising about 6,000 units, which could start contributing to housing the homeless.
As city officials are working on a new 10-year plan to address homelessness — the current one expires in June — the challenges surrounding the issues are coming under increased scrutiny.
Mayor Ed Lee’s homeless czar, Bevan Dufty, agrees that a better handling of evictions is an area that could improve.
“The Eviction Defense Collaborative and other partners that are working with us have very strong feelings that we have to get our providers to work with us and give us advance notice before people are being evicted for financial reasons or hoarding issues,” Dufty said at the public hearing.
Part of the solution is to intervene to address problematic behaviors before they escalate to eviction proceedings. And even before that, Dufty said there is a plan to better tailor housing situations to clients’ needs.
“Are we really having people chase where there are vacancies more than are we understanding what that person’s needs are to be successful?” he asked.
If someone is a hoarder, for example, it would make sense to not just put that person into any unit because it is vacant, but to choose one with services to improve the person’s chances of not becoming “the 5 percent of the people who are in supportive housing who get evicted,” Dufty said.
If things don’t work out, the costs add up. Dufty outlined a problematic scenario.
“We’re paying for the supportive housing, we are paying for the attorney that is evicting somebody, we are paying for the attorney that is fighting the eviction and ultimately we are paying for the services that an individual is going to need that winds up on the street,” he said.
There were 6,436 homeless individuals counted in The City last year, which is roughly the same as previous counts. Of those counted, 3,401 were on the streets without shelter and the remaining 3,035 were residing in shelters, transitional housing, resource centers, residential treatment, jail or hospitals.