Supervisor Rafael Mandelman says his freshly passed “Place for All Program” is “maniacally focused” on ending homelessness in San Francisco, but the city has seen these slogan-driven plans have had little effect in the past.
Longtime San Francicans know that homelessness has been prominent in the city for as long as anyone can remember. And we remember the many proposed (all unsuccessful) solutions generally came with a little catchphrase; “Beyond Shelter” (Mayor Art Agnos’ administration), “Matrix program” (Mayor Frank Jordan), or “Care Not Cash” (Mayor Gavin Newsom).
After a couple years of trying, Supervisor Rafael Mandelman got his latest proposal to end homelessness before the Board of Supervisors Tuesday. And KGO reports the board unanimously approved Mandelman’s “Place for All Program,” though listening to their discussion of the matter, several supervisors seemed skeptical it would provide a place for anyone.
Supervisor Mandelman explained his rationale at Tuesday’s board meeting. “We cannot address encampments, and neighborhoods that are affected by encampments, if we do not have adequate shelter to offer people,” Mandeman said. “And I think we ought to be maniacally focused on that project of having safe exits from the street.”
Despite a current estimated 7,800 unhoused people in San Francisco, Mandelman pointed out that “There are something like an additional 70 shelter beds proposed for this coming year’s budget.”
This legislation is not a specific plan to end homelessness, but instead directs the Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing (HSH) “to submit to the Board of Supervisors and the Mayor a plan to implement a program to provide unsheltered persons in San Francisco with access to shelter and permanent supportive housing.”
The plan would not come until later in they year, and is supposed to include “a cost estimate of implementation” and “a system to allow individuals experiencing homelessness to register for shelter by telephone.”
So it's basically an analysis measure that also requires a plan later down the line. That approach drew a little exasperation from other board members.
“Isn’t this what HSH does?” Supervisor Aaron Peskin asked. “Isn’t that what you’re supposed to do, to have a plan to end homelessness in San Francisco?”
HSH director Emily Cohen responded that “This ordinance would explicitly call on us to determine how many additional shelter beds we would need to offer, to offer a shelter bed to everyone experiencing unsheltered homelessness in San Francisco. So it definitely gives us more specific direction for our strategic planning.”
Mandelman put it in somewhat more plain English when he reintroduced the measure in March, saying the ordinance would direct City Hall officials "to conduct a survey of real property to identify lots or facilities appropriate for use as shelters, tiny home communities, or safe sleeping site."
I hate to sound cynical, the current board and the Breed administration have done unprecedented work securing hotels for people experiencing homelessness. That is a brass-tacks solution that will chip, chip, chip away at this problem, perhaps in a way we have not seen in our lifetimes. But another “analysis and assessment” type plan with a little phrase attached to it may seem like a movie we’ve seen before.
Or in the words of Supervisor Hillary Ronen Tuesday, “I’m going to be voting for this. But I’m going to be voting for it knowing that it will do nothing.”
Image: Joe Kukura, SFist