Interim Mayor Mike Farrell appears to have revised his approach towards homelessness just weeks before the end of his term.
On Thursday, May 10 Farrell proposed that $29.1 million in the 2018-2019 fiscal year would be added to general funds for homelessness prevention programs. This would be an 11.7 percent increase to the Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing’s current $250 million annual budget.
According to the 2017 SF Point in Time Count General Survey, there are currently more than 7,000 unhoused people living in San Francisco.
“These investments focus on programs and policies that have been proven to work, and will make a difference on the streets of San Francisco,” Farrell said. “Our residents deserve it.”
Part of the funds will be dedicated to the construction of approximately 150 new housing units expected to open next year. The Minna Lee Hotel in SoMa will also see about 50 more units added.
More than half of the budget will be used to open four Navigation Centers, a type of shelter that accepts more residents due to its inclusive nature. Navigation Centers allow residents more liberties than conventional centers, such as pets and plenty of belongings, and can often encompass entire encampments to keep communities connected.
Since the program’s creation in 2015, the four existing centers have assisted more than a thousand people with intensive care and services.
One of these centers will be exclusively designated for homeless women and expectant mothers, Farrell announced. Sup. Jane Kim said that several homeless women she talked to in her district of the Tenderloin were consistent victims of sexual assault and rape while living on the streets. This new center could offer a refuge for any women who feel unsafe. Expectant mothers, who thus far have been disappointed in the city’s current services for their families, will also be prioritized in this center.
The new centers would compensate for the closure of two active Navigation Centers in the Mission next spring.
In addition to funding more housing subsidies and new Navigation Centers, Farrell also plans to double San Francisco’s Homeward Bound Program, which connects homeless people with estranged family members and friends who give support and places to stay. According to the mayor’s office, more than 900 people have been helped through the program.
The remainder of the budget will be used to expand homeless services in affordable housing units and in other programs, such as supporting Transitional Age Youth (TAY), providing a long-overdue support for the city’s younger homeless population.
Farrell’s announcement contradicts his past political decisions regarding S.F.’s homelessness. As we’ve previously reported, just last month Farrell announced he would be stricter on removing tent encampments from the streets of S.F. even if people don’t have alternative housing arrangements.
The upkeep and the rest of the city’s progress towards ending homelessness will be more evident in June, when Farrell’s term will be up.\
Despite Farrell’s tumultuous history with homelessness advocates, many people said they believe this budget is a positive step in the city’s fight against homelessness, including Director of the HSH Jeff Kositsky.
“The Mayor’s proposed budget adds significant resources to San Francisco’s Homelessness Response System,” Kositsky said. “To be successful in our efforts to make homelessness rare, we have to invest in proven programs that help prevent and end homelessness.”