Mayor Breed came out with a new $600 million plan to reduce “unsheltered homelessness by 50%” in five years, but the key word there is “unsheltered,” because the details of the plan reveal it would only reduce overall homelessness by 15% over that period.
In fairness, San Francisco Mayor London Breed does deserve some credit on the homelessness issue. Last year’s homeless point-in-time count (commonly called “homeless census") showed a 3.5% drop compared to the previous count, so that alone gives Breed arguably a much better track record on the issue than her last few predecessors. But also in fairness, much of that drop can be attributed to projects funded by state and federal Homekey money, which Governor Newsom says he’ll continue to fund on a state level, but the federal funding is unlikely to ever be as generous as it was during the height of the pandemic.
That may be why Breed is opening a new front in the battle against San Francisco’s persistent homelessness problem, as Bay City News reports that Breed announced a $600 million proposal to reduce homelessness Friday, with a goal of “reducing unsheltered homelessness by 50%” over the next five years.
Our 5-year plan will help people exit homelessness, and improve conditions in our neighborhoods across the entire City. With the right investments and strong partnerships, we can move 30,000 people into housing and reduce unsheltered homelessness by 50%. https://t.co/HMEiXdNHez— London Breed (@LondonBreed) April 14, 2023
“To continue to make progress addressing homelessness in San Francisco, we need to take bold actions that require the partnership of City leaders, the public, nonprofits, the private sectors, and collaborations at all levels of government,” Breed said in a press release. “This plan sets forth strategies that build on what works and strengthens partnerships and accountability to ensure our efforts are making a real difference and that investments are making an impact.”
The full plan called “Home by the Bay” is presented in a 90-page PDF that is available online. And there's a pretty important language distinction in how the plan says it will reduce “unsheltered homelessness” by 50%, which is not the same thing as the overall homeless population. Because the details of the plan admit that it would actually only reduce “the total number of people experiencing homelessness by 15%.” See what she did there?
To continue to create effective solutions for those who are affected by homelessness, we need to take bold actions that require the joint work of City leaders, community, nonprofits, the private sector, and partnerships at all levels of government. We can't do this work alone.— London Breed (@LondonBreed) April 14, 2023
Supervisor Rafael Mandelman, who was probably never going to like this plan anyway because it’s not his Shelter-for-all proposal, sounded unimpressed in his remarks to Bay City News. He criticizes the plan, authored by Breed and the Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing (HSH), because he says it will "over-invest in permanent supportive housing and under-invest in shelter." And Mandelman may have a point there, because adding shelter beds is a quicker and easier fix, whereas permanent supportive housing takes a lot more time to develop.
And anyone who’s lived in San Francisco long-term knows that these multi-year plans pretty much never pan out. (Remind me again how well Vision Zero is iterating on its goal to “eliminate all traffic-related deaths by 2024.”) And the vulnerability that stands out here is the $600 million price tag, which is on top of the $650 million a year the city already spends on homelessness. We are back in deficit times, with Breed ordering every city department to cut its budget 5% this year and 8% next year. So there seems some likelihood that Breed’s own Home by the Bay plan would be trimmed by the budget cuts she herself has ordered.
Image: Sanfranman59 via Wikimedia Commons