The debate on how to best serve the homeless of San Francisco wages on this week in the form of an open letter by Supervisor David Campos and an interview given by Sam Dodge of the mayor's office to the Chronicle. The open letter implores Mayor Lee to support Campos's plan to declare a state of emergency, and the interview throws hard shade on Campos accusing him of not knowing what he's talking about. But what's really going on?
In his letter addressed to the mayor, published Friday in the Examiner, Campos rejects Mayor Lee's claim that he is merely grandstanding on the issue of homelessness in San Francisco, and reiterates his point that his dispute is not with the Mayor.
This is not personal. This is not rhetoric. I am doing the job the people of District 9 elected me to do. If we work together like we did to build the first Navigation Center in the Mission, I know we can make real progress. As the representative of the people of the Mission, Bernal Heights and the Portola, I ask you to please sign the declaration of emergency on homelessness and work with the Board of Supervisors to quickly open more Navigation Centers and give your constituents the help they are looking for.
Supervisor Campos is, in part, responding to Lee's failure to deliver on a 2015 promise to build more homeless navigation centers. The Chronicle notes that this past September Lee said he would open potentially two more shelters within six months. Well, it's six months later.
Sam Dodge, the "homeless czar" or "the mayor's point man on homelessness," told the Chron that the supervisors have essentially prevented him from securing a location for the proposed centers — accusing them of a very specific form of NIMBYism. "It’s not that they don’t want one in their district," claimed Dodge, "it’s just not right there, not right there."
And although Dodge chose not to name names when it came to which supervisors were obstructing his efforts, he had no problem dismissing Campos as ill informed.
“I don’t think he really understands all the work that’s being done,” Dodge told the Chron. “That’s OK. Not everyone has to be an expert on homelessness.”
Campos's plan, it should be noted, has received the backing of former homeless czar (which is the position currently held by Dodge) Bevan Dufty. And despite disagreeing on the best way to make it happen, Dodge is clearly rushing to get sites selected — and the paper reports the mayor as saying a site near Pier 80 and one in SoMa will be announced soon.
If Campos's emergency legislation passes, the city will be able to move more quickly in allocating public land for navigation centers — something which, theoretically, would help Dodge. Apparently Supervisors Aaron Peskin, Jane Kim, London Breed, John Avalos, Eric Mar, and Norman Yee have all come out in favor of Campos's plan, holding the party line for the progressive majority, but that still leaves the Board one vote shy of the eight needed to override a potential mayoral veto.
With Supervisor Campos promising to introduce legislation requiring the construction of six more navigation centers, and Dodge working to open new centers, the dispute seems mainly to be one of timing and who takes credit. Here's hoping they can work it out.