At the ballot box this fall, residents of multiple Bay Area cities can expect to be voting on a record number of local ballot measures aiming to build more affordable housing for the homeless and provide more homeless services. All told, the measures total about $3 billion in new public funding for the cause, as the Chronicle reports, which means a whole lot of new money being thrown at a problem that will likely never take a quick fix.
This past June's SF Homeless Project highlighted the many reasons why our local homeless population appears unchanged over the last decade despite over a $100 million being spent annually in SF alone on homeless services, shelters, and housing. But the impetus for the media project itself, and the reason voters probably will support the upcoming ballot measures in SF, Santa Clara, San Mateo, and Alameda counties, is as the Chron sums it up, "as the Bay Area tech economy ignites gentrification in formerly tatty neighborhoods, tent camps that were once in overlooked alleyways are rubbing up against people who aren’t used to them."
The measures include SF's Propositions J and K, a package that together will add 0.75 percent to our existing sales tax, bringing our total sales tax in the city to 9.5 percent, and which will potentially provide an extra $50 million a year for homeless services and housing as much as $1.2 billion over the next 25 years.
Also: Alameda County's Measure A1, which is a $580 million bond for affordable housing focusing especially on the homeless and which will require a two-thirds majority vote; Measure K in San Mateo County which extends a 3-cent sales tax for homelessness funding; and Measure A in Santa Clara County which authorizes a $950 million bond for supportive housing, primarily for the homeless.
Additionally, and encouragingly, widespread discussion of homeless issues has prompted Governor Jerry Brown to sign off on a $2 billion bill to fund housing for the mentally ill and homeless.
Meanwhile, the city's newly installed head of the Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing, Jeff Kositsky, just held a community meeting in the Mission last week, and C.W. Nevius for one found Kositsky "clear-eyed evaluation" of the current uptick in homeless complaints and problematic encampments refreshing.
He says there are two major factors in the increase in crime and violence in parts of the Mission District, which Kositsky says has more camping sites than anywhere else in the city.
First, as many have said, development in Mission Bay and South of Market has filled in much of the open land that traditionally had been used for camping. That’s pushed tent dwellers to areas where homes and businesses are located.
And second, he says the price of heroin on the street has dropped dramatically, making it a cheap alternative to pharmaceutical drugs, which are becoming harder to get.
“It is half the price it used to be,” Kositsky said. “There is a massive heroin epidemic in San Francisco.”
From there is it not hard to imagine the consequences. Heroin addicts need a daily dose, and they need cash to fuel the habit. Petty crime is a logical result.
This, Kositsky says, is the simple explanation for why Mission residents and business owners feel like the last year and a half things have been worse than ever, homeless-wise.
In addition to six more Homeless Navigation Centers set to open over the next two years, Kositsky is promising a new "triage center" opening in February or March that will, he says, be able to handle 100-200 people at a time.