Recall that San Francisco distributes around $241 million in more than 400 contracts with 76 private organizations that provide services to homeless people with no unified system to track the effects of that investment? Well, unsurprisingly, as a new Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing takes shape with the goal of unifying approaches to finding housing and providing services, a report issued today from the San Francisco's budget and legislative analyst and covered by the Chronicle calls on a better tracking system for homeless people themselves as they receive services.
“Each has its own set of systems in place, but they don’t necessarily overlap or seem to complement each other so they are actually effective,” Board of Supervisors president London Breed tells the Chronicle. “That’s the frustration here.” Breed initially requested that the report be undertaken.
According to the report, “With the restructuring of homeless programs under a single department, the city has an opportunity now to re-evaluate the effectiveness of existing programs and identify opportunities for stronger coordination of services...The development of a clear policy for addressing the needs of the homeless population will be an essential first step in this process.”
The report also calls for the need to address gaps in services. "Without a needs assessment that clearly documents where service weaknesses exist, city officials have a limited ability to understand the dynamic needs of the population and cannot ensure proper policy direction and funding for critical areas, including outreach and housing exits.”
Deputy deputy director of the new department Sam Dodge (and previously the leader of Mayor Lee's 2013-created office of Housing Opportunity, Partnerships and Engagement) appears to interpret the report as a mandate. “These are marching orders for the new department," Dodge told the Chron. “What we have set out to do is create a coherent system using data that helps people navigate to the best possible housing solutions.”
Meanwhile, in Seattle where a count placed the number of homeless people sleeping outside at 4,500, the Seattle Times reports that eyes are turning to San Francisco for examples and solutions. Former SF homelessness czar Bevan Dufty spoke to that publication to explain the Homeless Navigation Center model he spearheaded and which Seattle might adopt. “The standard belief had become that the people you saw on the street didn’t want help,” he reportedly said. “But I knew that wasn’t the case.”