As a day of devoted homelessness coverage draws to a close — though there will be more articles to come this this week and for many more to come — heads might naturally turn to Jeff Kositsky, the new Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing director. Kositsky was previously the executive director of the Hamilton Family Center and has been tasked, to some degree, with harnessing the power of the tech purse to aid the mayor in his pledge to house 8,000 people by the end of his term.
Now he's received the San Francisco Magazine profile treatment, from which we learn that the 50-year-old almost died in a skiing accident just before taking the job. Also, just before that, he got a tattoo of a flying pig, for whatever reasons one might do such a thing.
Waxing a bit conspiratorial, the magazine asks if Kositsky is "being set up to fail," and by that they mean that "In the end, the one thing that would truly solve the homelessness crisis is one thing that Kositsky has severely limited ability to control: the acquisition of sufficient housing."
Kositsky seems upbeat, and he's lent his voice to the Chronicle today to give us a sense of what his direction and job will be. His position will be one unifying existing programs, and he says we don't have to "reinvent the wheel."
First off, Kositsky makes the point that many people have been housed in San Francisco under our umbrella of services and that the numbers of people experiencing homelessness here aren't going up, which is good and not always the case in other cities.
I intend to build off successful program models and system designs from communities that have achieved significant progress. We do not need to reinvent the wheel but rather bring together all that works into a local coordinated system to align our shelter and housing resources.
Moving to a truly integrated navigation system will involve re-examining our entire organization to address homelessness. The cornerstone is the use of system-wide priorities and data to match people in crisis with the right housing intervention based on their needs. The pillars of an integrated system include:
• Building on the success of the navigation center model.
• Creating a cross-departmental team to address encampments throughout the city.
• Streamlining access and referral to services and housing.
• Ensuring that all people experiencing a housing crisis have fair and equal access.
• Using standardized tools and practices.
• Incorporating a system-wide “housing-first” approach to all types of programs.
• Prioritizing homeless assistance for those with the greatest needs.
• Using a common data system to track services and outcomes across the system of care.
In closing, Kositsky calls the problem of homelessness "solvable" and asks for help from elected officials and the public. "I am often told that I will have to walk a fine line between compassion and common sense," he writes, "but I see it as a wide boulevard."
Finally, just a small observation on Kositsky grabbing the mic from the Chron at this particular moment: It's impossible not to get a sense that the Chronicle and City Hall have synchronized watches or something. Consider also that yesterday the second Homeless Navigation center "opened," (some beds have been in use for months). Of course City Hall is aware of the media effort and doesn't want to be observed doing nothing, so it makes sense.
Previously: SF's New Homelessness Department Head Wants To Leverage Tech To House 8,000 By End Of Mayor's Term
Former Mayors Dianne Feinstein And Art Agnos Discuss Root Causes Of Homelessness, Other Mayors' Failures