Funding aims to reduce homelessness
There may soon be fewer homeless living on San Francisco streets thanks to an additional $1.4 million increase in funding for the Homeless Outreach Team approved this week by the Board of Supervisors.
The additional funding, approved Tuesday in a 10-to-1 vote, will be used to expand flexible housing opportunities, provide more mental health and substance abuse resources, bolster the infrastructure for homeless case workers, and increase treatment options for the homeless.
Supervisor Mark Farrell, who authored the bill increasing the funding, told SFBay the additional funding would allow the city to address the most difficult cases of the chronically homeless:
“We know there is no silver bullet to reducing and ending homelessness, but we do know that increasing engagement with our homeless population and providing additional housing is a significant first step. A greater investment in our Homeless Outreach Team will help to start to drive down the number of homeless individuals and families that are living on our City streets.”
The addition increases the team’s funding to $6.3 million annually.
The Homeless Outreach Team was founded in 2004 as a division of the Department of Public Health with a mission to interact with the homeless in an effort to get them off the street.
The team consists of caseworkers, city employees and non-profit contractors who work to bring people with mental health and substance abuse issues to emergency room for treatment before transitioning them to permanent housing.
Many of the team’s employees are themselves formerly homeless and have the most experience dealing with issues felt by people living on the street, but the new funding will provide for hiring a physician and nurse practitioner.
The team has previously come under fire for employing formerly homeless individuals who lack training in social work, mental health care or psychology.
At its inception the team worked in the Tenderloin, South of Market and the Financial District. It has since expanded into the Mission and Castro, though however the program struggles to provide enough temporary beds to meet demand.
After the board meeting Farrell hosted four stakeholder meetings with service providers, the Mayor’s office of Housing Opportunity, Partnerships and Engagement, DPH staff, and community leaders and advocates to create a plan to properly spend the additional resources.
District four supervisor Katy Tang was the only supervisor to vote against the increased funding. She told SFBay it was because the board will soon be dealing with The City’s budget and she would rather deal with the issue then.
“My preference is that we do not take supplementals individually on their own especially given the annualized costs associated with it.”
There were 7,350 homeless in San Francisco in 2013 including those in shelters, jail and transitional housing, while 914 were children under the age of 18, according to last year’s homeless count.
The count included sexual orientation for the first time, finding 29 percent of homeless in The City reported as LGBTQ.
A better funded Homeless Outreach Team will be better equipped to deal with the most difficult cases of the chronically homeless who require complex care, according to Farrell.
Supervisor Scott Wiener told SFBay the city had an emergency situation on its streets:
“We have a problem with homelessness on our streets and we don’t have enough outreach workers. We do not have nearly enough homeless outreach resources.”