For once, Mayor Ed Lee appears to be on a roll. In a June 1 budget announcement, he pledged $6 million for a new Navigation Center, $4 million for homeless child care programs for kids under 5, and $2 million for 30 new shelter beds dedicated for homeless families. On Monday, another announcement was sent out to the press, stating that Lee and District 8 Supervisor Jeff Sheehy had come up with a plan to dedicate $1.54 million in increased funding to support San Francisco’s homeless youth.
The funding is earmarked specifically for those ages 18 to 24. In San Francisco, many in this age range living on the streets have come out of the foster care system with little to no support, have survived abusive backgrounds, or grew up in low-income households. Many also identify as queer.
“Nearly half of all homeless youth identify as LGBTQ,” says Sheehy, whose district includes the Castro. “With intolerance on the rise on the national level, it is crucial that San Francisco remain a place of acceptance and tolerance for those fleeing unsafe spaces. Mayor Lee’s investment will help support and provide a path forward for our most vulnerable residents.”
A grant of $289,000 will go toward increased drop-in hours at the San Francisco LGBT Center, which offers youth a safe space to hang out, eat snacks, and access counseling, support groups, and health resources.
“LGBTQ youth come to San Francisco in search of acceptance and community, but unfortunately many end up in extremely disadvantaged situations,” says SF LGBT Center Executive Director Rebecca Rolfe. “The additional funding will allow the Center to expand our current services supporting youth with the resources and tools they need to get off the streets, build community, and thrive.”
An additional $350,000 is granted to expand outreach services for homeless youth, which will be carried out by Larkin Street Youth Services. With the funding, Larkin Street plans to hire a new outreach coordinator and collect resources for outreach teams, who work directly with youth living on the streets to get them into stable housing.
One of these programs works specifically with youth in Sheehy’s district. “Since launching the Castro Youth Housing Initiative in 2004, Larkin Street has worked in partnership with other nonprofit providers to ensure wraparound services for LGBTQ youth, who are dramatically overrepresented among those experiencing homelessness and have their own unique needs,” explains Sherilyn Adams, executive director of Larkin Street Youth Services.
Last but not least, $906,000 in additional funds goes toward rental subsidies, which will assist an additional 94 youth in accessing housing.
The $1.54 million will be combined with an additional $2.9 million in federal money that was granted to San Francisco in January to alleviate youth homelessness. Based on 2015’s homeless point-in-time count, there were approximately 1,600 unaccompanied youth on the city’s streets, out of 6,000 people counted. A city goal set in 2005 to create 400 units of housing for transitional-age youth over the span of 10 years failed to be met, with only 188 units constructed by the 2015 deadline. Two years later, the city still has not reached this goal. But this new commitment to fund resources that help alleviate the situation is a step in a positive direction — a fact that Adams sums up perfectly.
“Recognizing and resourcing the needs of our most vulnerable community members is an investment in the wellbeing of our entire city,” she says.