Jeff Kositsky, the man Mayor Lee put in charge of the newly formed Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing (HSH) last year, has just submitted his first budget proposal for the coming fiscal year, which begins July 1. As the Examiner reports, Kositsky is asking for significant spending increases over the next two years to extend the city's homeless services beyond the "status quo," and he said in a memo to the mayor last month, "Without significant new funding, HSH is unable to propose the scale of investments needed to make demonstrable progress towards reducing homelessness in San Francisco."
This should come as no particular surprise, and the scale of investment here in the problem of homelessness has been significant in the last decade despite there being a perennial and seemingly intractable problem on our city's streets. But in asking for $38 million more over the next two years, Kositsky is certainly seeking some aggressively big sums during a time of budget shortfalls and other belt tightening and amid threats from the President to cut off some $2 billion in federal dollars that flow to San Francisco each year.
But some are no doubt going to balk at the numbers unless they start seeing results, and fast the mayor already bumped up the city's budget for homelessness-related activities by $32 million during this last fiscal year, much of that going toward the creation of the new department. SF has homeless services budget of $241 million a figure that last year caused some stir in the media around budget-making time, and led to at least one person suggesting that is like spending $36,000 a year on every homeless person. Of that $241M, about $140M is said to be the operating and other costs associated with housing for the homeless and formerly homeless, and then the city has over 400 contracts with 76 private organizations who provide either services or housing.
Kositsky's proposal includes funds for “redesigning services” and creating a “unified data system to provide comprehensive client information and enable The City and service providers to track its progress toward achieving outcomes," per his memo.
Though no location for it has been publicly identified, the budget includes $2 million next year for "a 24/7 resource center where people can access restroom facilities, take showers, receive services, and enroll in benefit programs."
Also, $2.5 million of next year's budget will go toward the operation of a new 140-bed South of Market Navigation Center, which will be in addition to the operating costs of the existing Navigation Centers.
Even though we had heard the budget quoted as $241 million last year, Kositsky said he's using $209 million as the baseline for the current fiscal year, which may mean that not all of the budgeted money was spent this past year?
What certainly seems obvious, especially given the musical-tents problem, is that more needs to be done, and the first priority will be the creation of new shelter beds, because there is an ongoing, daily waitlist for beds that far exceeds what the city currently has to offer.
As Kositsky said, perhaps over simply, during a Reddit AMA last year, "Homelessness is a failure of our real estate market to meet the needs of low-income individuals." And he said the one improvement to the city's current status quo that would have the greatest impact would be "consolidating our 13 data systems into one." Also, he says, we need about 10,000 new units of low-income housing, but no one's figured out how to pay for that yet.