Supervisor Rafael Mandelman’s “A Place for All” legislation is just one of many California proposals being criticized for rounding people up into shelters instead of setting people up for permanent housing.
The Chronicle has a new lengthy analysis today of how COVID-19 has changed California homeless shelters, and the assessment is generally not good. San Francisco has made some decent progress over the last two and a half years with programs like homeless hotels, but those gains may yet vanish as COVID assistance programs wind down. Meanwhile, other Bay Area communities are largely seeing increases in homelessness, and with high-profile headaches like Oakland’s Wood Street encampment, and even homelessness in tony North Bay communities that are frankly not accustomed to dealing with such issues.
Today’s Chronicle focuses largely on Supervisor Rafael Mandelman’s “A Place for All” legislation that was largely watered down to more of a “submit a plan for us” plan. But cities like Sacramento (whose homeless population has leapfrogged San Francisco’s) are pushing similar measures, and the Chron wonders if these plans are just “politicians masking homeless enforcement behind shelter proposals.”
“Make no mistake,” Mandelman said at a May committee hearing on the legislation. “We will not end street camping in San Francisco without a significant expansion of shelter exits for unhoused people, and the political will to use that shelter to resolve encampments.”
The question, though, is whether Mandelman’s “political will” side of the equation takes precedent over the “significant expansion of shelter exits” part of the bargain. And we are seeing some good, creative expansions in other cities that can serve as role models. The tiny house village model is one of the better success stories we’ve seen during pandemic-era homelessness, though those too can have their own logistical issues.
The pandemic did increase homelessness at large across the Bay Area. But it also probably drew a stake into the heart of the airplane hangar full of shelter beds model that was never effective, and rife with indignities. The curveball of COVID-19 did encourage municipalities to try different models, and some of these may prove successful. But voters are getting proposed ballot measures to force new models in some cases, and in other cases courts are striking these models down.
And this is a pattern we can expect to see continue, as no model has emerged yet that has truly served as a magic bullet that works effectively every time.
Image: San Jose Housing Department