The city of Oakland spent $69 million over four years housing unsheltered people, but has no idea if any of those nearly 9,000 people ever found permanent housing, according to a new report from the City Auditor.
The highest-profile homelessness issue right now in the City of Oakland is the on-again, off-again clearing of the Wood Street encampment, which could benefit from a $4.7 million state grant to turn it into something more stable and less dangerous. But throwing money at the problem might be the problem, according to a new report from the Oakland City Auditor. The Bay Area News Group reports that a new audit from that office says the city has spent $69 million over the last four years to get unhoused people sheltered, but can’t actually say whether anyone was permanently sheltered, because they’re failing to keep track of whether anyone found permanent housing.
“We can do better, and we must do better,” City Auditor Courtney Ruby wrote in a press release summarizing the audit. “I believe establishing and adopting better strategies, management, oversight and staffing is essential to sustaining a successful homelessness response, which addresses the issues outlined throughout this audit report.”
The full, 135-page audit details that the city has sheltered 8,683 people in temporary shelters, all run by third parties like nonprofits, but got “mixed results” on the $69 million they spent. The report notes that these nonprofits never tracked how many people found permanent housing (nor did the city ask for this information), and more bafflingly, the city has no idea how many beds are available on any given night (and again, the city has not been asking for this crucial data).
“The audit found the city does not have the requisite analytical and technical skills to consistently analyze, track, and monitor data, all of which is needed to effectively manage homelessness services and hold service providers accountable,” the press release explains.
The final 15 pages of the auditor’s report are devoted to 30 recommendations (yeah, that’ll totally happen) to tighten up the system, which include staffing analysis, more comprehensive reporting, and clearer communication of goals and deadlines.
And this comes just as the Chronicle has done its own analysis about how much good a $100 million grant from the nonprofit Tipping Point has done to reduce chronic homelessness. That grant, issued to the city in 2017, had a goal of reducing the chronically homeless population by half in five years. But, in fact, the city's population of chronically homeless individuals has increased in those five years from 2,138 to 2,691.
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